CRA field crew performing excavation work at the Baxter Lake site.

Excavations at the Baxter Lake Site

Today I would like to present some information that we learned as a result of our excavations at the Baxter Lake site . The site was one of many sites that CRA investigated during the AOS project. A summary of the Baxter Lake excavations can be found on the MoDOT website at: Analysis of the recovered materials indicated that the site was occupied during the Early Archaic (circa 7500 BC based on the recovered diagnostic hafted bifaces).

The hafted biface type recovered from the site is known as Hardin Barbed. We hand-excavated two large blocks at the site. Our excavation and analysis of Block A indicated the presence of three activity areas (Concentrations 1–3). Rather than discuss the excavations in depth, I’ll just discuss one aspect of our analysis of the materials recovered from Concentration 1 at the site.

The vast majority of the recovered artifacts from Concentration 1 were lithic artifacts. These artifacts consisted of flakes from the manufacture of stone tools, several bifaces, large bifacial cores, and hafted bifaces (projectile points or knives). Bifacial core refers to a large block of chert that has been worked on two faces. The flakes that are removed from such cores can be further reduced to produce many different types of stone tools or be used as is as simple cutting or scraping tools. The core itself may also be used as a tool or worked into another tool. Analysis of the lithic artifacts indicated that the goal was the production of large bifacial cores that could be transported to other sites.

Also of interest is that we located outcrops of chert less than .5 km from the site that may have been one source of the chert used at the site. Analysis of the spatial association of the materials in Concentration 1 suggests that the debris is the product of two separate knappers during the same occupation of the site. The site may have been visited by a small group of hunters who exploited the chert sources close to the site to stock up on chert as they passed through the area.

Baxter Lake is unique in that most sites that we excavate represent longer periods of occupation and, in many cases, debris left behind as a result of multiple unrelated occupations. In the case of Baxter Lake, we are looking at an occupation by probably 2-3 people and possibly as short as one day for the occupation. A short version of what we learned from the excavations and analysis of the materials is: one day, around 7500 BC, several people stopped by the Baxter Lake site.

While there, they manufactured some stone tools that they then transported to other sites for use. Of interest for archaeologists is that the Baxter Lake site is one of the few sites that has been excavated where one can basically see a single day in the life of a person in prehistory. How cool is that!