Posts Tagged ‘artifacts’

Topic: Bourbon distillery; 1830’s

archaeological dig at early distillery yields valuable insights

Woodford distillery’s past comes to light with archaeology dig

VERSAILLES — One of Kentucky early distillers, Oscar Pepper, is making history again, this time about what early farm life was like in the Bluegrass.

Brown-Forman owns the Woodford Reserve Distillery near Versailles, on the site of the original Pepper distillery. Late this summer, archaeologists began excavating around the 1812 log cabin built by Elijah Pepper on a hill above Glenn’s Creek, where the first distillery and grist mill were built.

“We hoped to find any artifacts or architectural remains that would help fill in the picture of life there at the Pepper house,” said Dr. Kim McBride, co-director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, which is a partnership between the University of Kentucky Department of Anthropology and the Kentucky Heritage Council.

McBride and the other archaeologists located an area just to the side of the house, which is still standing, that proved a surprisingly rich source of one of archaeology’s best resources: trash.

“It’s other people’s garbage we are working with but we use that to get a picture of the culture, the socioeconomic status, such as how much they were spending on material goods,” McBride said. “By combining the archaeology with oral history and documentary research, we can get a picture of 19th-century life.”

They knew that Elijah and Sarah Pepper built the cabin around 1812 and used the nearby limestone springs for a grain mill and for making whiskey. Stone buildings built from 1838 are still used today by Woodford Reserve, along with post-Prohibition warehouses.

Elijah Pepper’s son, Oscar, and Scotsman James Crow in the 1830s revolutionized the bourbon industry by using scientific and hygienic practices and writing down their processes, said Chris Morris, present day master distiller at Woodford Reserve.

“Oscar Pepper was born in that house, as were so many other Peppers, and James Christopher Crow probably ate dinner in that house, slept in that house,” Morris said.

Elijah Pepper passed away in 1825, and Oscar Pepper took over the farm and distilling, Morris said.

“He built our current distillery between 1838 and 1840, that beautiful limestone building. He hired James Christopher Crow to be his distiller, and Crow worked most of his life in that stone building,” Morris said. “Historians credit Pepper and Crow with pretty much defining bourbon as we know it today. They have no claims on any inventions — they did not invent the sour mash process but they perfected it. They did not invent charring and using new barrels but they perfected it. … And the most important thing they did was they wrote this down. … We owe those two gentlemen a lot.”

Through oral histories and documents, the archaeologists knew that a long-lost structure, built at the same time as the cabin, once stood at the side of the house. But when they began digging they soon realized it was much larger than they had thought.

“We were really surprised and delighted to find the mirror image of the structure,” McBride said. “The eastern room had been really heavily turned over to yard use. There was a drilled well in there, and it was right near the back door, so that area had been heavy yard work area. That didn’t lead us to expect that this was really twice as big as what you could see on the surface. … Often what you find underground is more complicated — when you find out what you thought was an end wall is a divider wall.”

They eventually uncovered stone walls measuring 44.5 feet from east to west by 17.5 feet north to south, with chimneys on the east and west ends and a dividing wall in the middle.

The chimney on the east end was probably for heat but the one on the west end had a substantial fire box with a stone platform, probably large cooking pots, she said.

“This was probably a combination kitchen and slave quarters,” McBride said, which were common in that era. Records indicated the Peppers had six slaves when they settled in Woodford County and acquired more.

“After 1865, we have the death of Oscar Pepper and the estate is in transition, and with emancipation the structure was probably no longer needed,” McBride said.

Many of the most interesting artifacts the archaeologists found were probably dumped into what became a rubbish tip.

Yesterday’s trash, today’s treasure.

Lots of toys — especially marbles and doll parts — smoking pipes, coins, fasteners including hooks and eyes from corsets, and buttons were unearthed, as well as an inkwell, a salt shaker, broken glass stemware, pottery, eating utensils such as bone handled forks and knives, and what they think might have been a pool cue ball.

There was a tremendous assemblage of animal bones, including some with bullet holes, “so that will give us good insight into diet,” McBride said,

“The excavation is just the beginning. We bring everything back to an archaeology lab, where it’s cleaned, sorted, and cataloged. … We hope Woodford Reserve will find some of them useful for exhibits interpreting life at Pepper house, and they will be available for other scholars to use.”

Morris’ dream is to display the artifacts, possibly in the distillery’s popular visitors’ center. He also would love to use the stone foundation and the cabin in some way, possibly in another public distillery space.

With bourbon again on the rise, the Woodford distillery is expanding and Brown-Forman will be building several new barrel warehouses, including one very close to where the house is. They haven’t determined whether the cabin will be moved.

“We’re still working on plans for what we’re going to do with the house,” Morris said.

And the archaeologists aren’t done: Morris said they will be coming back to dig around the original distillery and grist mill site along the creek.

“I can’t wait to see what they find there,” Morris said.

Original article:


By Janet Patton —October 14, 2013




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Topic: ancient recycling

A study at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) reveals that humans from the Upper Palaeolithic Age recycled their stone artefacts to be put to other uses. The study is based on burnt artefacts found in the Molí del Salt site in Tarragona, Spain.

The recycling of stone tools during Prehistoric times has hardly been dealt with due to the difficulties in verifying such practices in archaeological records. Nonetheless, it is possible to find some evidence, as demonstrated in a study published in the ‘Journal of Archaeological Science’.

“In order to identify the recycling, it is necessary to differentiate the two stages of the manipulation sequence of an object: the moment before it is altered and the moment after. The two are separated by an interval in which the artefact has undergone some form of alteration. This is the first time a systematic study of this type has been performed,” as explained to SINC by Manuel Vaquero, researcher at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.

The archaeologists found a high percentage of burnt remains in the Molí del Salt site (Tarragona), which date back to the end of the Upper Palaeolithic Age some 13,000 years ago. The expert ensures that “we chose these burnt artefacts because they can tell us in a very simple way whether they have been modified after being exposed to fire.”

The results indicate that the recycling of tools was normal during the Upper Palaeolithic Age. However, this practice is not documented in the same way as other types of artefacts. The use of recycled tools was more common for domestic activities and seems to be associated with immediate needs.

Recycling domestic tools

Recycling is linked to expedited behaviour, which means simply shaped and quickly available tools as and when the need arises. Tools used for hunting, like projectile points for instance, were almost never made from recycled artefacts. In contrast, double artefacts (those that combine two tools within the same item) were recycled more often.

“This indicates that a large part of these tools were not conceived from the outset as double artefacts but a single tool was made first and a second was added later when the artefact was recycled,” outlines the researcher. The history of the artefacts and the sequence of changes that they have undergone over time are fundamental in understanding their final morphology.

According to Vaquero, “in terms of the objects, this is mostly important from a cultural value point of view, especially in periods like the Upper Palaeolithic Age, in which it is thought that the sharper the object the sharper the mind.”

Sustainable practices with natural resources

Recycling could have been determinant in hunter-gatherer populations during the Palaeolithic Age if we consider the behaviour of current indigenous populations nowadays.

“It bears economic importance too, since it would have increased the availability of lithic resources, especially during times of scarcity. In addition, it is a relevant factor for interpreting sites because they become not just places to live but also places of resource provision,” states the researcher.

Reusing resources meant that these humans did not have to move around to find raw materials to make their tools, a task that could have taken them far away from camp. “They would simply take an artefact abandoned by those groups who previously inhabited the site.”

Vaquero and the team believe that this practice needs to be borne in mind when analysing the site. “Those populating these areas could have moved objects from where they were originally located. They even could have dug up or removed sediments in search of tools,” highlights the researcher.

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Topic early hunting- tools

At a site in the Homa Peninsula of Lake Victoria, Kenya, scientists are uncovering stone tools and fossils that are shedding new light on their manufacture and use, as well as early human habitat and behavior.
Led by co-directors Dr. Thomas Plummer of Queens College, City University of New York and Dr. Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution, excavations at the site, called Kanjera South, have revealed a large and diversified assortment of Oldowan stone tools, fossil animal remains and other flora and faunal evidence that is building a picture of hominin, or early human, life and behavior in a grassland environment about 2 million years ago. Oldowan stone tools represent the earliest known human or hominin stone tool industry, named after the Olduvai Gorge, where Louis Leakey first discovered examples in the 1930’s. This early industry was typically composed of simple “pebble tools” such as choppers, scrapers and pounders, a type of technology used from about 2.6 to 1.7 million years ago.
According to Plummer, the site “has yielded approximately 3700 fossils and 2900 artifacts…….This represents one of the largest collections of Oldowan artifacts and fauna found thus far”.
But more significant than the numbers is what the analysis of the finds and the site has revealed.
Says Plummer, “the ca. 2.0 Ma sediments at Kanjera South…..provide some of the best early evidence for a grassland dominated ecosystem during the time period of human evolution, and the first clear documentation of human ancestors forming archaeological sites in such a setting”.
The site thus shows clear evidence that early humans of this time period were inhabiting and utilizing a grassland environment, in addition to other types of environments, a signal of critical adapatation that led to evolutionary success. Moreover, analysis of the makeup of the tools and the geography and geology of the area suggested that these hominins were transporting what they must have consideed to be the highest quality materials from relatively distant locations to produce the most effective and efficient tools for butchering animals. Cut marks made by stone blades on fossil bones, particularly small antelopes, showed signs that the animals may have been hunted, or at least encountered first, by the early humans before other preying animals reached the carcasses.
“The overall pattern of hominin access to the complete carcasses of small antelopes may be the signal of hominin hunting”, writes Plummer. “If so, this would be the oldest evidence of hunting to date in the archaeological record”.
Use of stone tools by these early humans apparently went beyond butchery.
“Thus far, the use-wear on the quartz and quartzite subsample of Kanjera artifacts confirms that animal butchery was conducted on-site, but also demonstrates the processing of a variety of plant tissues, including wood (for making wooden tools?) and tubers. This is significant, because the processing of plant materials appears to have been quite important, but would otherwise have been archaeologically invisible”.

Plummer’s detailed article about the research and findings is published in the June 12, 2012 issue of Popular Archaeology Magazine.

Original article:
popular archaeology
June 13, 2012

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Topic: Using tools

Stone tools from mofified bones 3.4 million years old-Dikika, Ethiopia

Fossilized bones scarred by hack marks reveal that our human ancestors were using stone tools and eating meat from large mammals nearly a million years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study that pushes back both of these human activities to roughly 3.4 million years ago. 

The first known human ancestor tool wielder and meat lover was Australopithecus afarensis, according to the study, published in the latest issue of Nature.  This species, whose most famous representative is the skeleton “Lucy,” was slender, toothy and small-brained.

“By pushing the date for tool use and meat eating in our lineage back by around 1 million years, our finds show that tool use and meat eating was not unique to (the genus) Homo, a widely accepted notion in our field,” co-author Zeresenay Alemseged told Discovery News. 

“Also, by showing that A. afarensis was involved in these activities, we showed that you do not need a large brain to do this,” added Alemseged, director of the Department of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences.

“This is a kind of find that will force us to revise our human evolution and anthropology textbooks.” 

He and his colleagues from the Dikika Research Project made the determinations while working in the Afar Region of Ethiopia. There they unearthed two fossilized bones bearing stone tool marks. One of the bones belonged to a large, buffalo-sized, hoofed mammal, while the other was possibly from an Impala, gazelle or antelope.

Various types of electron microscopy, along with chemical analysis, determined that cut marks were inflicted while one or more individuals carved meat off the bones with a sharp stone tool. Percussion marks were also created when a stone tool broke open the bones to extract their nutritious marrow.  

The fossilized bones were found sandwiched between volcanic deposits, which permitted reliable dating of them. Before this discovery, the world’s oldest human evidence for butchery dated to 2.5 million years ago and came from Bouri and Gona, Ethiopia. No human remains were found in association with those fossilized prey bones, but A. afarensis remains were previously unearthed near the recent Afar Region discoveries.

Since the Afar stone tools were transported to the kill or scavenge site from nearly four miles away, A. afarensis must have valued the sharp objects. What’s unclear, however, is whether or not the ancient hominids made the stones themselves, or just picked already sharp stones up from the ground.

Lead author Shannon McPherron told Discovery News that he and his team plan to next look for “the locations on the landscape where A. afarensis (likely) broke one stone with another to create a sharp-edged flake.” 

“This activity leaves behind debris, unused flakes and perhaps the stone from which the flakes were removed, which we can recognize as evidence of stone tool manufacture,” said McPherron, a Paleolithic archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 

Alemseged added that “meat consumption has definitely contributed greatly to tool technology.” 

Archaeologist David Braun of the University of Cape Town agrees. In a separate Nature commentary, Braun wrote that improved butchery methods “may have set the stage for a greater reliance on animal tissues and more sophisticated stone-tool production.” 

Since fossils for A. afarensis have been found in Kenya and Tanzania, in addition to Ethiopia, Braun is hopeful that future research can determine if this species was “a habitual tool user” or not. 

“More surprises surely await us in the fossil-rich sedimentary basins of East Africa,” Braun concluded

Original Article:


By Jennifer Viegas


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