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Harney FlatsA Florida Paleoindian Site$

I. Randolph Daniel Jr. and Michael Wisenbaker

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781683400226

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9781683400226.001.0001

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Settlement Systems and Technology: A Summary Model

Settlement Systems and Technology: A Summary Model

(p.168) Chapter 9 Settlement Systems and Technology: A Summary Model
Harney Flats

I. Randolph Daniel

Michael Wisenbaker

University Press of Florida

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter summarizes the preceding analyses by looking at the relationship between hunter-gatherer settlement systems and technology. Situated on a ridge slope overlooking the large inland basin of Harney Flats, the site is topographically well positioned to serve as a residential base providing a vantage point to observe animals in the basin, provide access to water, and obtain nearby suitable toolstone. Indeed, the site assemblage has been influenced by the readily available quantities of knappable chert. Manufacturing different tool types is seen as a principal activity at the site, and inferences are made with regard to the overall roles of these tools within the settlement system. With respect to technological organization, distinctions are made between expedient tools (manufactured for short-term use on-site) and curated tools (manufactured for long-term use elsewhere in the settlement system). Other items such as hammerstones, cores, and abraders were likely stored at the site awaiting reuse.

Keywords:   Settlement system, Technological organization, Curated tools, Expedient tools, Hammerstones, Cores, Abraders

Harney Flats spans three physiographic zones: the Gulf Coastal Lowlands, the Polk Upland, and the Zephyrhills Gap (in which the Hillsborough River Valley is entrenched). In the vicinity of the site, the Coastal Lowlands would have been an upland 30 m above mean sea level 10,000 or more years ago. The Polk Upland was even higher and much better drained than today, and probably did not provide an attractive physiographic setting for early man and other life forms. The Zephyrhills Gap, on the other hand, contained the Hillsborough River Valley, which was perhaps characterized by scattered patches of mesic forests. Although the flow of the river was probably less than now (if it flowed at all), there must have been permanent water holes perched atop the pockets of clay layers.

The site is located opposite a gap in the ridge that separates the Hillsborough River and the Palm River valleys. This gap may have been a corridor through which animals could have passed from the northern parts of Harney Flats prairie into the region of even moister soils of the Hillsborough River Valley. This area probably contained relatively greater amounts of water than most of the surrounding areas during the Paleo-Indian period. Because such low concave surfaces generally accumulate soil rather than lose it to erosion, these areas are usually moister (Spurr and Barnes, 1973:229). Given this, low inland basins such as Harney Flats were probably grasslands, perhaps interspersed with hummocks and open savannah woodlands, which could have served as grazing or browsing grounds for animals.

The elevation of the site on the sand ridge overlooking the flats would have provided a fine vantage point to observe animals in the basin and was favorably located to provide the basic economic requirements of a base camp: access to water, plants, animals, and suitable lithics for tool manufacture. Evidence that this site was actually utilized as a base camp is the diversity and quantity of implements recovered; the in situ manufacturing and reworking of stone tools; and the distribution of activity areas and refitted specimens.

Using the associations and contexts of the recovered artifacts within the reconstructed environmental setting in light of the preceding ethnographic models, we have fine-tuned them to explain what we cannot see. Although this is not a final statement and much work remains to be done, a crucial step in formulating a (p.169) hunter-gatherer model for Southeastern Paleo-Indian is to understand all aspects of their lithic technology. Beginning with a firm footing in tool manufacture and curation, resource procurement, band mobility, site placement, and settlement patterns and systems, archaeological knowledge of early man will be advanced tremendously.

Access to Raw Materials

While the mobility of Paleo-Indian groups in general appears well established, little is known about groups in Florida. Based on the development of a geological method of chert source identification by Upchurch, Strom, and Nuckels (Upchurch et al., 1981), a study of Paleo-Indian adaptation is now a possibility in Florida. Goodyear (Goodyear et al., 1983) has recently conducted a preliminary raw material study on a sample of twenty-seven Paleo-Indian lanceolate-shaped points from the Tampa Bay region. Although he expected that specimens of material from quarry clusters north of the Tampa Bay region would be found in the sample, no exotic cherts (i.e., from outside the Tampa Bay region) were identified. This is in contrast to the pattern reported from many other Eastern Paleo-Indian sites (however, see Moeller, 1980 for another example of local cobble chert utilization).

Reasons offered for this apparent anomaly include the small sample size, and the fairly continuous availability of chert along the central Florida Gulf Coast. As Goodyear notes, " … it may be the degree of curation was less such that tools were not used for long enough periods of time to travel as far as the person" (1983:61). In addition, the movement of Paleo-Indian settlement systems may not have been north to south along the state as projected, but rather east to west along the various drainages emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. An east to west pattern following drainages along the Gulf Coastal Lowlands and Polk Upland has already been postulated for the Archaic period (Daniel, 1985), and may have had its origins in the Paleo-Indian period. Now-drowned early sites exist in the Gulf of Mexico around Tampa Bay, and many sites representing the Paleo-Indian settlement system may be underwater.

No exotic cherts were observed in the sample from Harney Flats (Upchurch, 1984); only raw materials from the immediate vicinity of the site or the Tampa Bay area were identified. The implication of these studies is that the Paleo-Indian groups of Florida may not have exhibited the widespread mobility apparently existing elsewhere in the East. But a spatial and temporal incongruence may have existed between resources at some point in the yearly round necessitating a portable and flexible assemblage of stone tools. The overwhelming choices for raw material at Harney Flats were the limestone replaced cherts and not the locally available silicified corals (Upchurch, 1984), which is consistent with the results of Goodyear's study and reflects the pattern seen elsewhere in the East of selection of better cryptocrystalline raw material by Paleo-Indians. Elsewhere in the Southeast, archaeologists (Gardner, 1977) have postulated that the settlement pattern and geographical movements of Paleo-Indian groups were restricted by a dependence upon cryptocrystalline stone.

(p.170) The Curated Toolkit: Evidence of Maintenance and Recycling

A certain regularity in tool form across North America has long been recognized for the Paleo-Indian period and the assemblage from this site is no exception. Certain classes of formal tools are considered to be personal gear, exhibited greater degrees of labor in manufacture, and are therefore believed to have been curated (Binford, 1973). These traits are manifested in tools being transported from site to site and maintained by resharpening and recycling. There is more evidence of tool maintenance than tool recycling in the Harney Flats assemblage, which is thought to be a consequence of the site's location in an area of raw material abundance. As a result, the need to transform one tool form into another would be less.

The hafted lanceolate bifaces are the most distinctive and perhaps the best made tools in the entire assemblage. Hafting itself implies portability and therefore curation. A pattern of tool maintenance has been observed in resharpening the blade and tip edges of the point. With a single exception, recycling of these bifaces was not noted; however, elsewhere Suwannee points have been recycled into endscrapers (Goodyear, Thompson, and Warren, 1968). Apparently such cases are rare, but they are interesting since they probably reflect an instance of personal gear being transformed into situational gear. Under situational contingencies, tool needs are immediate and therefore almost any readily available material is utilized. Instances of drafting personal gear into situational gear take place under conditions of low raw material availability and are most likely to occur at special purpose sites.

Another tool form thought to have been hafted is the endscraper. These tools appear to have been maintained rather than recycled. Evidence of maintenance in this class is variation in tool length, which probably reflects differing amounts of resharpening. The short, stubby specimens are believed to have been exhausted before discard, and are evidence that "retooling" (Keeley, 1982) was a primary activity at the site. Evidence of recycling endscrapers and other tool forms was absent in this assemblage, unlike at Debert (MacDonald, 1968:91) and Vail (Gramly, 1982:34) where endscrapers were transformed into pieces esquillees (bipolar cores) used for the production of small flakes (Goodyear, 1982b). Because use of these cores is believed to be related to relative scarcity of raw material, and since this was apparently not a problem at Harney Flats, no transformations would be expected, and indeed, pieces esquillees would be unnecessary.

The discoidal scrapers are similar in form to the endscrapers. The important difference between these two unifaces is that discoidal scrapers were probably not hafted, but were portable and could be hand held for use. Their circular or oval form allowed the working edge of the tool to be easily maintained by rotating and resharpening.

The final unifacial formal tool, the oblong scraper, represents a good example of flexibility in the assemblage. Although some could have been hafted, the majority appear to have been hand held. The variations in shape (Figure 24) are seen as representing dynamic stages of tool use and resharpening. The flexibility manifested (p.171) in these forms suggests a tool designed to be capable of rejuvenation and of alteration into forms suitable for a particular occasion (e.g., pointed at one end for perforating or graving). Broken or shortened, exhausted oblong scrapers could have been transformed into large endscrapers. Like the transformations of Suwannee points to endscrapers, these recyclings probably took place when the need arose for a functional form that was not present in the tool kit and had been produced from an available one. This is most likely to have taken place at special purpose sites. Since raw materials were apparently readily available at Harney Flats, end-scrapers could have been manufactured without having to be recycled from another form. We think that these recycled tools were probably made elsewhere, brought to the site when close to exhaustion, used until exhausted, and then discarded. Replacements were then manufactured and used on site (see Gramly, 1980).

Perhaps the best example of flexibility is the bifacial core, which was probably the most general purpose "tool" in the assemblage in that it could fulfill a number of different purposes. When properly reduced, it would function as a "handaxe." If large enough, it would serve as a core from which flakes could be removed. Ultimately, it could even have been transformed into a projectile point. Its most important property was undoubtedly its portability.

To provide for all these tasks with flakes, one would need to carry an inconvenient number of them of various sizes, shapes, and edge angles, plus, perhaps, a core and hammerstone—not a very handy assortment to carry on the chase (Keeley, 1980:161).

Lithic Procurement and Mobility

Although technological organization provides a way of understanding how and why human societies created technologies as answers to their various adaptive problems, it is necessary to understand the influence of such factors as the degree of mobility, the availability of good raw material, and even the role of time (Torrence, 1983) in shaping prehistoric hunter-gatherer technologies. Some research questions, e.g., those concerning the organization of the technology (Binford, 1977; 1979), can be studied more effectively through technological analysis.

Within the discipline, most lithic analysts have pursued thus far two basic lines of inquiry. One is the technological approach, often with replication, where the techniques related to the manufacture of a chipped stone tool are reconstructed (e.g., Crabtree, 1966). The other approach concerns establishing the uses of stone tools through use-wear analysis (e.g., Hayden, 1980). Both of these avenues of research are necessary but not sufficient in themselves to allow an understanding of how and why prehistoric adaptations took place. The study of why certain tool designs were created and how these designs were implemented and manipulated within the total settlement system refers to the organization of the technology (Goodyear, 1982b:25–26).

This third approach—the investigation of the role of the lithic assemblage in the overall adaptation—has seen limited but important use in the analysis of particular (p.172) sites (Claggett and Cable, 1982; Anderson and Schuldenrein, 1983) as well as in general cultural studies (Goodyear, 1979; Goodyear et al., 1983). Goodyear (1979), for example, postulates that Paleo-Indian groups used high quality cryptocrystalline material to create portable and flexible technologies to offset geographical incongruities between resources and consumers. Although proposed as general hypothesis, he claims that this statement is particularly applicable to the North American Paleo-Indian tradition. Certain technological adaptations are required in a highly mobile lifeway, and by viewing the Paleo-Indian stone tool assemblage from this perspective a better understanding of prehistoric adaptations can be obtained.

Goodyear argues that evidence for the high mobility of Paleo-Indian groups can be seen in the geographic distribution of exotic or non-local raw material used in the manufacture of stone tools. This phenomenon represents embedded strategies of raw material procurement. As groups move seasonally to different locales, they gather lithic raw material indigenous to that region. Only in an emergency were special trips made to get material.

From my perspective, the presence of exotic cherts may be a fair measure of the mobility scale of the adaptation appearing as a consequence of the normal functioning of the system, with no extra effort expended in their procurement (Binford, 1979:261).

Based on this argument, Goodyear claims that most of the exotic lithic remains in Paleo-Indian sites in the Eastern United States are the result of mobility.

Given high group mobility, the procurement of needed resources can sometimes present problems. Since lithic raw materials and biotic resources do not occur evenly over the landscape, spatial or temporal incongruences will occur between the natural locations of raw material for stone tools and the places where such tools would be used for extracting and processing biotic resources. This logistical problem is solved by the creation of a portable technology.

The second major problem of a highly mobile lifeway is the need to adapt to the variable events that can arise on a daily basis. This problem, which Goodyear refers to as "situational contingencies," is best handled by flexibility.

Another major constraint as well as source of variation in the situational response is the condition of the chipped stone tool kit from pose to pose. If the problem of geographic incongruencies can be solved through portable technologies, the problem of situational contingencies can be alleviated through flexible technologies. Flexibility means creating tools with lifespans long enough to be used on a number of occasions if necessary. With chipped stone tools this means designing tools which can be continuously and reliably rejuvenated. Flexibility also means the capability for redesigning tools as other tools and otherwise re-casting the raw material of the tool kit into wholly new tools or cores for the derivation of tools if necessary. If we place such requirements for flexibility as just defined within the additional and prior stricture of portability, I believe the form and variable condition of North American Paleo-Indian technologies become potentially more understandable (Goodyear, 1979:4).

(p.173) The use of cryptocrystalline stone helps solve these adaptive problems because of the ease and precision with which it can be worked. Reliable flaking qualities allow tools to be fashioned for extended life spans and to be efficiently and reliably maintained. Furthermore, if necessary, such material can be transformed from one tool form to another.

To summarize Goodyear's hypothesis, the use of cryptocrystalline material is an adaptive strategy for making both portable and flexible tools that are necessary in a lifestyle characterized by high mobility.

Organization of Technology at Harney Flats

The apparent abundance of available raw material had a major influence on the assemblage at Harney Flats especially in the large number of unifaces, both curated and expedient, recovered. The presence of curated tools at a site may not necessarily indicate that they were utilized there, but rather that they were simply discarded and replaced by others. Indeed, the evidence of actual tool use at the site is probably best reflected in the expedient unifaces.

The many unifacial tools are consistent with the model of their use at sites near sources of lithic material, while curated tools are observed for use elsewhere (Keeley, 1982:803–804). Sites away from lithic sources (habitation or special purpose sites) should contain curated unifaces as opposed to the expedient forms. However, Binford has argued that

… if broken in the context of use (curated tools) are frequently transported to residential locations where they may be recycled or repaired for future use (1977:334).

The relatively large numbers of curated tools at sites near quarries may be evidence of the discarding of exhausted tools and their replacement by newly manufactured forms. A group about to leave a site near lithic sources may have retooled in anticipation of future travel in areas containing little or no suitable stone material (Gramly, 1980; Keeley, 1982:803–804). Consequently, curated forms may have been deposited at sites near lithic sources where they were replaced (such as at Harney Flats) and repaired or recycled at habitation sites where fresh raw material was not readily available. This model needs to be examined at other early sites in Florida.

Although a few of the larger expedient unifaces appear to have been hafted, this is not necessarily evidence of portability and curation, but rather represents a functional design for use in more robust activities. The larger size of these tools compared to the curated unifaces argues against their being curated beyond the length of the site occupation. Perhaps they were simply stored at the site like the large hammerstones.

The Harney Flats data provide some insight into the manufacturing processes of the Suwannee technology. At least three types of cores were recovered, suggesting that there were distinctions made in the manufacture and ultimate use of (p.174) the flakes derived from those core types. The bifacial core is viewed as a curated tool like the unifaces, but which could be carried from site to site, and depending upon certain "situational contingencies," could be used to produce the functional equivalent of almost any tool type in the assemblage.

Overall evidence is present in the assemblage for the portable and flexible technology postulated by Goodyear. More evidence was found for tool maintenance, however, than for tool recycling. The curated tools reflect an assemblage with low diversity, (i.e., a general purpose tool kit containing tools that must be used for many different tasks). Due to the relatively high mobility of most hunter-gatherer groups, the gross number of artifacts which can be carried between residences is ultimately limited and the degree of tool specialization is restricted.

The particular nature of the Harney Flats site has allowed us to see different strategies of tool design. Although the curated portion of the tool kit is generalized and lacks diversity, there is a greater variety exhibited in the expedient unifaces. Functionally equivalent forms of curated and expedient tools are present in the assemblage, but the expedient ones are more a response to specific and immediate tasks, while curated tools are planned for long-term use and must meet different types of tool needs.

We can expect many such tool-design parallels, that is tools of very different design being used for identical tasks; but this is not to say that they are functionally isomorphic, since they are clearly designed for very different intended roles within the technology (Binford, 1979:269).

In addition to the curated (personal gear) and expedient (situational gear) forms identified in the assemblage, there is also evidence for "site furniture." This is best represented by cached items such as hammerstones and sandstone abraders. While also being expedient gear, the many cores could also represent stored items awaiting reuse.

In sum, the organizational properties of the Paleo-Indian technology at Harney Flats are seen as being "location centered" (Binford, 1979:255). This perspective has allowed us to interpret a site where an assemblage has been influenced by readily available quantities of lithic raw material. Since the manufacturing of different tool types is seen as a principal activity at the site, inferences were made as to the intended roles of these tools from the perspective of the entire settlement system. Of course, a number of different site types must eventually be examined before we can fully understand how the technological options for planning and executing tasks in different places were made. Although Harney Flats has given us a good start, only by studying additional sites will the organizational variability within the Paleo-Indian cultural system be understood.

Our identification of the Harney Flats site as a residential base camp is primarily based on its relatively large size and internal site structure, including the presence of a living area separated from activity areas primarily associated with tool manufacture. Based on its location with easy access to many resources, it is also possible that it may have been a larger aggregation site for some social as well as economic functions. Of course, the indications of ritual or social activities at hunter-gatherersites (p.175) are very difficult to define archaeologically and have not been demonstrated here. If this is a large aggregation base camp, then special purpose and smaller scale camps inhabited by one or two families could also be expected as part of this settlement system.

This considered with the paleoenvironmental record provides a framework for the study of prehistoric hunter-gatherer adaptations in central Florida. The climate at the time of the earliest occupation of this site has been characterized as having decreased seasonality, reduced differences between winter and summer temperatures, and increased dryness in an environment composed of sclerophyllous oak woodlands with prairie-like openings. Water was generally restricted to low-lying segments of drainages and to locations in karst areas that penetrated the Floridan aquifer. Such places would also contain plants which in turn attracted game. Tentative evidence for some association between Paleo-Indian projectile points and these features is already known (Waller and Dunbar, 1977; Dunbar and Waller, 1983), although the types of site actually represented are not.

This heterogeneous or patchy, dry environment combined with a cooler climate would have tended to favor a logistically (collector) based settlement system with restricted mobility tethered to water sources. Settlement may not have been related as much to seasonal changes as is generally postulated for the succeeding Archaic period. Perhaps movement here was more related to scheduling of tool-kit replenishment, social needs, and the availability of water, to name just a few. Although the Florida peninsula would have been far larger than at present due to the lower sea levels, the territories defined on that basis of available water may have been oriented along drainages crossing the Gulf Coastal Lowlands and the Polk Upland borders and probably included land areas presently under Tampa Bay. This geographic orientation during the early Holocene may not have been north and south, but east and west with the mouths of rivers existing several kilometers farther west in what is now the Gulf of Mexico. Such an east-west orientation would naturally restrict mobility on the peninsula.

The Paleo-indian component at Harney Flats is a benchmark in early man studies in Florida and the Southeast. Until now Paleo-Indian studies in the state have largely been associated with a diagnostic projectile point style, a vague idea of other lithic artifacts, and inferences from early sites in other areas. The fieldwork emphasized opening large contiguous areas and mapping individual artifacts to study internal site structure. Broad scale patterning includes a living area and activity areas. Our study of the organization of the technology went beyond the traditional techno-functional stone tool study to understand the role of the lithic assemblage in the overall settlement system adaptation. This study has helped to reveal the generalized nature of the implements and indicates that tool form and function are not necessarily independent variables.

One of the most significant accomplishments was to prepare a strong foundation for defining Paleo-Indian settlement systems. Refinement of this model using more detailed spatial analysis, tool fitting, and use-wear studies must be encouraged for us to understand the adaptation of early man in Florida and other portions of the Eastern United States.