Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Late Archaic hunter-gatherer perishable technologies in the Black Hills: An investigation of the Crystal Cave location and its culturally modified wood
by Weathermon, Rick L., Ph.D., University of Wyoming, 2011, 418; 3478463
Abstract (Summary)

Perishable cultural materials constituted a considerable portion of the technology of prehistoric people. The information that can be gathered from studies of these fragile organic artifacts is of interest to investigators of human prehistory and can serve to alleviate some of the biases associated with interpretations of culture based only on more durable lithic or bone artifacts. This dissertation examines Crystal Cave, a small dry relict cavern in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota, and analyzes the wood portion of the perishable technology recovered from that location.

Located near the top of the Madison limestone, Crystal Cave is situated in a steep west-east trending canyon and contains a single prehistoric component dating to around 2,500 radiocarbon years before present. Although the site is within the area of highest precipitation for the Black Hills, the interior of the cavern contains a considerable number of well-preserved perishable items dating to the Late Archaic. The dry nature of the sediments on the interior of the cave are the result of local geography and very dry loess-like deposits which are unusual for the Black Hills. The orientation of the south-facing cave allows direct sunlight to extend far into the interior during the winter, while the summer sun is restricted to the front few meters near the opening.

Analyses of the wooden artifacts recovered from Crystal Cave indicate that atlatl dart refurbishing and manufacture of other wood tools was taking place during the Late Archaic. A comparison with similar wood materials from Spring Creek Cave and Daugherty Cave in Wyoming show close relationships in both manufacture techniques and metric attributes among these three Late Archaic sites. Comparisons to materials from Cowboy Cave, Hogup Cave and Danger Cave in Utah also show similarities but are less definitive.

The atlatl dart materials from Crystal Cave indicate that the inhabitants were using a restricted suite of materials in the making of the atlatl darts. Although the Black Hills are a rich biotic environment with high numbers of woody plants, analysis indicates willow, chokecherry, service berry, and hazel, along with giant reed, were the preferred materials. Reconstructions based on the artifacts from the South Dakota and Wyoming caves suggest that the typical unfletched dart was compound with a mainshaft of willow or hazel and foreshafts of serviceberry or chokecherry. The typical dart measured about 165 centimeters in total length. Using willow and chokecherry with a diagnostic chert projectile, the complete dart is projected to have weighed around 65 grams. Atlatl dart pieces were occasionally recycled into deadfall traps. Based on the analyses of the wooden artifacts, and in conjunction with the other recovered artifactual materials and locations, it appears that the inhabitants of Crystal Cave followed a more collector oriented form of hunter-gatherer strategies as proposed by Binford (1980).

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kelly, Robert L.
Commitee: Ahern, James C., Jackson, Stephen T., Kornfeld, Marcel, Waguespack, Nicole M.
School: University of Wyoming
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Wyoming
Source: DAI-A 73/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology
Keywords: Atlatl, Black Hills, Cave, Hunter-gatherer, Late Archaic, Perishable, South Dakota, Wood identification
Publication Number: 3478463
ISBN: 9781124960685