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cover Current Research in New York Archaeology: A.D. 700–1300

edited by Christina B. Rieth and John P. Hart


John P. Hart, Lisa M. Anderson, and Robert S. Feranec

Abstract. The histories of maize in New York have changed radically over the past decade based on the recovery of phytolith assemblages from directly AMS-dated charred cooking residues adhering to the interior surfaces of pottery sherds. We now know that maize was being used as early as ca. cal 300 B.C. at the Vinette site in the Finger Lakes region. Maize phytoliths have also been found in cooking resides dating to ca. cal. A.D. 650 from the Kipp Island site. Here we present additional evidence for maize use at this time through the analysis of human teeth from a cemetery at the site that Ritchie originally dated to ca. A.D. 1000, but that now appears to date primarily to ca. cal. A.D. 650. Dental caries rates and stable carbon isotopes both indicate maize consumption at this time.

The histories of maize (Zea mays ssp. mays) in New York and the greater Northeast have undergone considerable change over the past several years. Previously thought to have been introduced in temperate northeastern North America around A.D. 1000, we now know that the crop has much longer histories in the region. Direct dates on maize macrofossils from southern Ontario have shown that maize was in use there by at least ca. cal. A.D. 500 (Crawford et al. 1997; Crawford and Smith 2003). Stable carbon isotope analyses of human bone collagen and apatite have provided complementary data showing that maize consumption is detectable in some individuals sampled in that region by at least ca. cal. A.D. 500 (Harrison and Katzenberg 2003; Katzenberg 2006). In central New York, phytolith assemblages extracted from directly dated charred cooking residues adhering to the interiors of pottery sherds have indicated maize was being cooked in the region by at least ca. cal. 300 B.C., well before there is evidence for its use in the macrobotanical record (Hart et al. 2003; 2007; Thompson et al. 2004). Similar evidence has recently been reported from the Saginaw River basin of the lower peninsula of Michigan (Raviele 2010).

In this chapter, we provide additional evidence that maize was being consumed in central New York prior to cal. A.D. 1000. This evidence comes from the Kipp Island site, which contained both residential areas and cemeteries. One cemetery, excavated by Ritchie in 1963 was assigned by him to a component he believed dated to approximately A.D. 1000 (Ritchie 1969; Ritchie and Funk 1973). As reported here, new AMS dates indicate that the cemetery is multicomponent; the majority of it dates to approximately cal. A.D. 650. The rate of caries in the human teeth from the cemetery is consistent with maize consumption. Isotopic analysis of dentin and enamel of third molars from three individuals, two from the ca. cal A.D. 650 component, also suggest maize consumption. These results add further evidence that maize has a much longer history in the region than previously thought.

Backgound and Chronology

Location and Excavation History
The Kipp Island site is located on a glacial drumlin island above Montezuma Marsh on the north end of Cayuga Lake, and between the Clyde and Seneca rivers in north-central New York (Figure 3.1). Ritchie (1969; Ritchie and Funk 1973) defined four components at the site based on pottery typology and three radiocarbon dates. Kipp Island 1 was defined on the basis of a small cemetery with nine burials, which Ritchie assigned to the end of his Middlesex phase of the Adena tradition ca. 650–150 B.C. Kipp Island 2 was defined by Ritchie (1973:155) as “an early Hopewellian-influenced phase of the Kipp Island culture.” He included in this component a small burial mound, several features found in the habitation area, and an undetermined number of burials excavated by collectors. He assigned a radiocarbon date on charcoal from a feature of 1640±100 B.P. (Y-1378; cal. 2σ A.D. 140–614) to this component. Kipp Island 3 was considered by Ritchie (1973:155) to comprise the primary occupation of the site both in terms of the habitation area and burials excavated by collectors. This was the type component for his Kipp Island phase (Ritchie 1969; Ritchie 1973). He assigned a radiocarbon date of 1320±100 B.P. (Y-1379; cal. 2σ A.D. 545–962), obtained on wood charcoal from a feature in the habitation area, to this component. Finally, Kipp Island 4 was defined by Ritchie (1969, 1973) as belonging to his late Point Peninsula Hunter’s Home phase, and comprising habitation features and a cemetery excavated in 1963. He assigned a radiocarbon date on wood charcoal from Burial 7, a cremation from the cemetery excavated in 1963, of 1005±100 B.P. (Y-3441; cal. 2σ A.D. 780–1224) to this component.

Figure 3.1

Location of the Kipp Island site.

Ritchie reported that the burials he associated with Kipp Island 2 and 3 were spatially separated from those he excavated in 1963 (Ritchie 1969, 1973). He noted that:

Prior to our excavations of 1963, on which the present account is based, the entire northern two-thirds of the island, which had contained the mound and the cemeteries of an earlier age, had been taken away for fill by the New York State Thruway. The southern remnant of the island, also much dug over by collectors, was explored by us for settlement pattern information. The new burial component of the Hunter’s Home phase (Kipp Island No. 4) was discovered during the late 1962 survey for this work. (Ritchie 1973:155)

The portion of this cemetery excavated in 1963 had 29 graves containing approximately 120 individuals (Figure 3.2). Based on field assessments, Ritchie (1969:265) reported that these consisted of 21 adult males, 27 adult females, 31 adults that could not be sexed, 18 children 4–16 years of age, 8 infants, and 5 individuals that could not be aged. All of the graves were shallow, extending no more than 10 cm into the subsoil, which is described in field notes as a hardpan. A range of burial forms were identified including single flexed; single bundle; single cremation; multiple flexed; multiple bundle; multiple bundle and cremation; multiple flexed and bundle; multiple flexed, bundle, and cremation. Ritchie (1969:265–266) indicated that the predominance of interments were secondary burials. The bone was in very poor condition and only teeth and a few bone fragments were collected from some of the burials, while the rest of the skeletal material was not collected and reburied in place. Only three of the burials contained grave goods. These included three ceramic pipes and a slate pendant.

Figure 3.2

Plan map of Kipp Island 4 cemetery (Ritchie and Funk 1973:157).

New Radiocarbon Dates
A large number of accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates were obtained on charred cooking residues adhering to the interiors of pottery sherds from the habitation portion of the Kipp Island site during the 2000s (Hart and Brumbach 2005; Hart et al. 2003; Hart and Lovis 2007; Schulenberg 2002). These dates were run in two separate studies at two different AMS labs and on types assigned to both the Point Peninsula and Owasco series. They have revised the chronology of the Kipp Island 3 and 4 components, producing mean pooled ages of 1423±20 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 600–655) and 1249±14 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 686–805), respectively (Table 3.1). Dates on residues from sherds assigned to Point Peninsula and Owasco series types contribute to both pooled mean ages (Hart and Brumbach 2005).

Table 3.1

Radiocarbon Dates from the Kipp Island Site.

These new dates raised questions about the age of the cemetery that Ritchie assigned to the Kipp Island 4 component. The radiocarbon age that Ritchie used to establish the age of the cemetery, from a cremation, post dates the radiocarbon age now assigned to the Kipp Island 4 component by two centuries. The date reported by Ritchie has a 100-year standard deviation, resulting in a 444-year cal. 2σ range (A.D. 780–1224) and making any interpretation of a specific occupation date or date range impossible. Also of potential chronological significance for the Kipp Island 4 cemetery is the range of burial forms, which, as noted by Ritchie (1969:262), “was surprisingly diversified, considering the lateness of the period and the occurrence of only single flexed and bundle burials at the Hunter’s Home site.” We submitted several samples from the cemetery for AMS dating in an attempt to resolve chronological questions. The results were varied (Table 3.1), but they do allow a reassessment of the cemetery’s chronology1.

Date ISGS-A0573 was on wood charcoal recovered from a small hearth beneath Burial 13 (multiple flexed). This date indicates the cemetery post-dates 2855±35 B.P. (cal. 2σ 1126–919 B.C.). Date ISGS-A0571 was on wood charcoal from a hearth intruding into the fill of Burial 21 (multiple bundle). This date indicates that Burial 21, and probably other portions of the cemetery, pre-dates 895±35 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 1039–1219).

The cremation Ritchie dated was assigned by him to Burial 29 (29E), part of a cluster of burial pits in the southern extent of the 1963 excavations (Figure 3.2): Burial 26 (multiple flexed and bundle), Burial 28 (single, flexed), and Burial 29 (multiple bundle and cremation). Burial 26 contained nine individuals (labeled 26a–26j); the pit intersected that of Burial 28. Ritchie’s (1963) field map shows Burial 29E intruding into Burial 28 and the greater portion of Burial 29, indicating that it post-dated them. Although it was not possible to firmly establish in the field, Ritchie (1963) and Schambach (1963) suggested that Burial 28 was intruded by, and was thus earlier than, Burial 26. Ritchie (1963) further suggested that skull 26f belonged to Burial 28, which when archaeologically excavated after Burial 26, was missing the upper portions of the skeleton. Schambach (1963) indicated that the missing skeletal elements of Burial 28 may have been removed when Burial 26 was rapidly archaeologically excavated.

Two dates obtained from Burial 26 are consistent with the dates obtained on residues from pottery sherds associated with the Kipp Island 3 component. These are ISGS-0747 on charcoal from the fill of Burial 26 (1375±35 B.P.) and ISGS A0649 on tooth collagen from Burial 26c (1355±30 B.P.). These dates have a mean-pooled age of 1363±23 B.P. (cal 2σ A.D. 639–685), which overlaps the cal. 2σ range of the pooled mean age for the five AMS dates on residues assigned to Kipp Island 3 (1423±20, cal. 2σ A.D. 600–655). Together these seven dates have a pooled mean age of 1400±14 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 617–659).

The chronological position of Burial 26f/28 was resolved with an AMS date on tooth collagen from 26f (ISGS A1182) of 1130±20 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 880–991). This date and the excavators’ observations indicate that the skull is later than the Burial 26 interments and probably belongs to Burial 28. A date obtained on charcoal from the fill of Burial 28 of 1870±25 (ISGS-A0572; cal. 2σ A.D. 77–220) obviously represents earlier occupations of the site as does date ISGS-A0747 on residue from a sherd within the fill of Burial 26 (2055±35 B.P.; cal. 2σ 170 B.C.–A.D. 20).

Grave Goods
Among the few artifacts identified as grave goods were three pipes and a ground slate pendant. Ritchie (1969:252) associated a number of pipe forms with his Kipp Island phase—to which he assigned the Kipp Island 3 components—platform, right-angle elbow, and obtuse-angle elbow. The plain, obtuse angle form of two pipes from the cemetery, one each from Burial 5 and Burial 6, is consistent with this assignment (Ritchie 1969:230, 252–253; Ritchie and Funk 1973:119). Burial 5 (flexed adult and bundle infant) was below Burial 4 (multiple bundle burial). Burial 6 was a multiple bundle burial. The third pipe, from Burial 28, is straight with annular punctuations. Ritchie (1969:252) identified this form with his Kipp Island phase, but he also indicated that the form extended into his subsequent Hunter’s Home and Carpenter Brook phases (Ritchie 1969:257, 298). The annular punctations are suggestive of the “mammilary bosses, depicting perhaps, an ear of corn” that Ritchie (1969:296) identified as a notable exception to the undecorated pipes he believed characterized his Carpenter Brook phase. The slate pendant from Burial 28 is consistent with those Ritchie described for his Kipp Island and Hunters Home phases (Ritchie 1969:230, 249–250, 257; Ritchie and Funk 1973:119). These two artifacts are, therefore, consistent with the date obtained on burial 26f/28.

Subsistence Evidence
Ritchie’s excavations at Kipp Island yielded minimal subsistence evidence. In the absence of flotation, the recovery of macrobotanical remains was serendipitous. The remains recovered included Chenopodium seeds and nutshell of hickory and butternut. Also recovered was bone from 30 species including mammals and fish (Ritchie 1969:242–243).

Directly-dated residue samples from two sherds from the Kipp Island 3 component were subjected to phytolith analysis (Hart et al. 2003, 2007). The grass phytolith assemblage from one of these samples was identified as maize while the second is identified as a mixed assemblage of maize and wild rice (Zizania sp.). Also recovered from the residues were squash (Cucurbita sp.) and sedge (Cyperus sp.) phytoliths. Analysis of fatty acids extracted from pottery fabric and encrusted residues indicated the cooking of plant and animal resources in these same pots (Reber and Hart 2008).

In sum, then, like the habitation area (Hart and Brumbach 2005), the Kipp Island cemetery assigned by Ritchie to the Kipp Island 4 component has a complex history. The new dates reported here along with those on cooking residues reported earlier are spread from 2855±35 B.P. (cal. 2σ 1126–919 B.C.) to 895±35 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 1039–1215), indicating a longer history of occupation for the site than that suggested by Ritchie (1969; Ritchie and Funk 1973). The four components suggested by Ritchie can be correlated with the new radiocarbon date record from the site, with the realization that the components were probably not single events.

Ritchie’s Kipp Island 1 component may be associated with a cluster of three dates (Table 3.1) with a pooled mean age of 1881±18 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 72–212). These include a date on bone collagen from a dog skeleton in Feature 17, the fill of which included dentate rocker-stamped pottery sherds. While only a single date, ISGS-A1545 may define the age of Kipp Island 2 at 1545±25 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 430–573). While Ritchie’s original date for this component 1640±100 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 140–614) suggests an earlier age, the large standard deviation, and consequent 474-year cal. 2σ range, makes a specific interpretation impossible. The new date’s cal. 2σ range falls well within that of Ritchie’s original date. With the new dates from the cemetery the mean pooled age of seven dates (Table 3.1) for Kipp Island 3 is refined to 1400±14 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 617–659). The seven dates on residues with a mean pooled age of 1249±14 B.P. (cal. 2σ A.D. 686–805) define the age of the Kipp Island 4 component (Table 3.1). These two pooled means 2σ ranges fall well within the 2σ range of the radiocarbon date Ritchie assigned to the Kipp Island 3 component. The radiocarbon date Ritchie assigned to the Kipp Island 4 component is later. Ritchie assumed that all burials in the cemetery belonged to the same component. This was evidently in error given the large number of dates indicating an earlier age.

The clear separation of the four components as dated here is shown in a plot of the probability distributions against the radiocarbon calibration curve (Figure 3.3). We are confident that the pooled mean ages for Kipp Island 3 and Kipp Island 4 will change little with any subsequent radiocarbon assays. The current ages tentatively identified for Kipp Island 1 and 2 will undoubtedly change with additional radiocarbon assays. However, these two components have no bearing on the chronological interpretation of the cemetery excavated by Ritchie (1969). The date on Burial 28/26f and the date on the hearth intruding into Burial 21 indicate the existence of later occupations as well. The extent of these later occupations is unknown.

Figure 3.3

Calibrated 2σ radiocarbon probability distributions for four Kipp Island components plotted against the radiocarbon curve.

Two dates suggest that the multiple interment burials date to the early cal. seventh-century A.D., or Kipp Island 3 component. Multiple burials of mostly secondary interments are consistent with regional trends for cemeteries at that time. Such cemeteries probably served to mark and identify local population territories at summer aggregation locations. Deceased members of the otherwise dispersed population would be brought to the cemetery for burial at times of aggregation, thus explaining the secondary interments (Ramsden 1990:174; Spence 1986:92; also see Ritchie 1969:266). As expressed by Ramsden (1990:174):

band identity was marked by the presence of a permanent cemetery located strategically within the band territory, and band membership would have been marked by the right to bury deceased family members there, as well as the right to join other band members at the nearby spring/summer camp. Furthermore, participation in the rituals involved in interring family members in the band cemeteries provided feelings of group solidarity which may have been very functional in a situation of rather fluid band membership.

The recovery of maize, wild rice, and squash phytoliths from cooking residues dating to this component suggests late summer to early fall occupations—perhaps a season for aggregation of otherwise dispersed local populations. Whether the different burial pits in the Kipp Island cemetery represent contemporary subpopulations or temporally discrete burial events for the same or different local population(s) cannot be determined. Based on the Burial 26f/28 AMS date and the burial pit intersections, single interments may be later than the multiple interment burials.

tooth analyses

The recovery of maize phytoliths from Kipp Island 3 cooking residues indicates that inhabitants cooked maize on the site. In order to assess the extent to which the population(s) represented by this occupation incorporated maize into diets, we undertook analysis of caries rates and stable isotopes of a small number of teeth collected from the interments excavated by Ritchie.

Dental Caries Analysis
Numerous bioarchaeological studies of diet and disease have linked the adoption of maize agriculture to changes in health and, in particular, changes in dental health (Cohen and Armelagos 1984; Larsen 1995; Larsen et al. 1991). Increasing reliance on maize introduced a higher carbohydrate load into the diet resulting in an increase in dental caries and related oral health problems. This trend is supported by data from the Eastern Woodlands that show a low average caries rate of less than 7 percent prior to the adoption of maize followed by a dramatic increase of 2 to 3 times among later maize agriculturists (Larsen 1997). As an indicator of carbohydrate consumption, therefore, dental caries is a useful area of study for dietary reconstruction (Buikstra and Ubelaker 1994; Larsen et al. 1991).

Dental caries is a disease process in which the minerals in dental hard tissues, such as tooth enamel, are dissolved by organic acids produced by the fermentation of dietary carbohydrates by oral bacteria (Hillson 2000:260; Larsen 1997:65). Foods high in carbohydrates promote the growth of oral bacteria which in turn trigger the development of dental caries. Simple sugars, such as the sucrose in maize, are more easily metabolized and therefore more cariogenic than more complex carbohydrates (Hillson 1979; Larsen 1997). The disease process can also be affected by differences in the consistency and texture of food. Changes in processing and cooking techniques with the adoption of maize produced softer, stickier foods that were more likely to adhere to teeth and promote decay.

In addition to changes in the frequency of dental caries, the location and severity of carious lesions are also influenced by dietary differences. Each tooth has a unique morphology that affects its susceptibility to caries and that can be modified by other factors such as diet and dental attrition (Buikstra and Ubelaker 1994). Occlusal wear among non-agriculturalists removed food-trapping pits and fissures, reducing the potential for caries on occlusal surfaces while leaving interproximal and cervical areas still prone to caries development. As an age progressive disease, caries were rare among children and young adults. With greater amounts of sugar in the diet, caries tend to develop in the pits and fissures of tooth crowns, particularly molars, as well as in the interproximal spaces between teeth. As more areas of the tooth are affected, carious lesions increased in both number and size and they became more common in children (Hillson 1996, 2000; Larsen 1997).

While an increase in dental caries frequency is closely associated with the adoption of maize agriculture, agricultural crops are not the only source of cariogenic foods (Larsen 1995). In the Southeast, Rose et al. (1991) found an increase in dental caries prior to the evident introduction of maize that may have resulted from an increased use of naturally occurring high-carbohydrate foods such as chenopodium. In the Northeast, cariogenic foods such as starchy seeds, tubers, sap, and fleshy fruits would have been seasonally available well before the adoption of maize; however, botanical evidence for intensive use has not been identified (Milner and Katzenberg 1999). Asch Sidell (2002, 2008) has identified an increase in the density and variety of seeds with the presence of maize in the Northeast but only tentative evidence for indigenous crops. At the Kipp Island site, Ritchie (1969:241; 1973:161) reported seeds tentatively identified as Chenopodium as well as hickory and butternut.

To test for the presence of carbohydrates in the diet of individuals from Kipp Island, human remains were examined for evidence of dental caries. The Kipp Island skeletal sample has been heavily affected by various taphonomic processes. It consists of extremely fragmentary and incomplete remains of 75 individuals representing only a portion of the 120 individuals recorded by Ritchie (1969) in the field. Preservation and recovery biases have reduced the collection to primarily teeth with very little skeletal material present. Most teeth are loose and in some cases the roots are poorly preserved or missing. Of the 75 individuals represented in the collection, the teeth of 62 individuals are suitable for study, including 46 adults and 16 children. All of the dentitions are incomplete and the average of number of teeth per person is fewer than 10. Nearly half of the individuals have fewer than 25 percent of their teeth.

Given the condition of the collection, the types of analyses that can be performed are limited. In the absence of alveolar bone it is not possible to determine if missing teeth were naturally shed during life due to advanced decay or lost post mortem due to poor preservation or incomplete archaeological recovery techniques. Therefore it also is not possible to estimate frequencies of antemortem tooth loss or other forms of dental disease. In the absence of skeletal material, there is no control over sex and little control over age. Age can only be reliably estimated up to about 18 years using dental eruption data. Adult age was estimated in broad categories (i.e., young adult, adult, and older adult) based on the rate of dental attrition however without corroborating skeletal data to gauge the relationship between age and wear status, the accuracy of adult age is unknown. The lack of skeletal indicators of age and sex also precludes confirmation of the original demographic estimates made by Ritchie in the field.  

The teeth were examined macroscopically for evidence of dental caries. Each tooth was recorded by type (i.e., incisor, canine, premolar, molar), location (arcade and side), and scored for the presence or absence of carious lesions. When caries were present, the location on the surface of the tooth (occlusal, cervical, interproximal, buccal, lingual) was recorded as well as the general size of the lesion and the degree of attrition associated with the site of the lesion. Caries frequency was calculated as the percent of carious teeth for each tooth type and all teeth combined.

A total of 537 teeth from 59 individuals in multiple burials were examined including 455 permanent teeth from 43 adults and 82 deciduous teeth from 16 children (Table 3.2). Among adults, 58 percent experienced caries although this is based on incomplete data from missing dentition. A total of 96 adult teeth or 21.1 percent were affected by caries. As expected, younger individuals exhibited the fewest caries. The average rate of caries by tooth type is 18.57 percent for incisors, 6.9 percent for canines, 15.94 percent for premolars, and 30.32 percent for molars. Nine teeth (8 molars and 1 premolar) exhibited multiple carious lesions. Among children, 6.1% of deciduous teeth were affected, with caries occurring on five molars from three individuals under eight years of age.

Table 3.2

Numbers of Permanent and Deciduous Teeth and Caries Examined from the Kipp Island Site.

The location of lesions on the teeth also varied. In the permanent dentition, 38 percent of caries occurred on occlusal surfaces. All were found on molars in 68 percent of the adults with caries. Cervical caries account for 35 percent of all caries and these were found on every type of tooth among 60 percent of adults with caries. Less common were interproximal (14 percent), buccal (7 percent), and lingual (1 percent) caries. Lastly in 7 percent of caries, the enamel crowns were too decayed to determine the site or sites of origin. Among deciduous teeth, three caries occurred on occlusal surfaces, one on an interproximal, and one on a buccal surface.

A caries rate of 21.1 percent  in the permanent dentition at Kipp Island is consistent with caries frequencies documented in Eastern Woodlands groups practicing maize agriculture including Late Prehistoric and early Historic populations in New York (Sempowski and Saunders 2001; Wray et al. 1987, 1991) and Ontario, Canada (Katzenberg et al. 1993; Larsen et al. 1991; Patterson 1984; Pfeiffer and Fairgrieve 1994). The caries rate at Kipp Island is not as high as many agricultural groups, suggesting diets less focused on maize. Interestingly, in a study of Archaic period populations in the Great Lakes region, Pfeiffer (1977) reported a slightly higher rate of caries at the Frontenac Island site in Cayuga County, New York, compared with other Archaic period sites in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Canada, where caries were generally very low or non-existent.

Caries occurred in children at Kipp Island as early as age three although at a relatively low frequency. Since caries are generally rare among children of non-agriculturists, their presence at the site suggests the incorporation of some carbohydrates in the diet. Among adults, caries appear to correlate with age although age-related trends are tenuous given the quality of the data.

The distribution of caries by tooth type falls midway between populations with and without independent evidence of maize agricultural in New York State (Table 3.3). The high frequency of caries on incisors is unusual for any group and may be due to deficient enamel deposition during crown formation, or other factors such as sampling bias, genetic differences in susceptibility, or differences in dietary, biomechanical, or masticatory behavior.

Table 3.3

Adult Kipp Island Caries Frequency by Tooth Type Compared with Sites in New York.

The location of carious lesions on tooth surfaces also reflects a more moderate consumption of dietary carbohydrates. A relatively high frequency of cervical lesions differs from late prehistoric Seneca populations where caries occurred most often on occlusal surfaces (Wray et al. 1987). Cervical caries have been reported as common, although not exclusive, to non-agricultural diets and diets incorporating relatively small amounts of maize (Hillson 1996; Larsen 1997). In summary, although sampling issues limit the conclusions that may be drawn from the Kipp Island dental data, the frequency of dental caries appears to indicate a diet that included starchy, carbohydrate-rich food. While the dental caries data from Kipp Island are consistent with maize consumption, it may have been to a more moderate degree than later agricultural groups in the Eastern Woodlands.

Isotope Analysis
The analysis of stable carbon isotope values for identifying components of diet, particularly in recognizing the inclusion of maize in diet, is useful because the different photosynthetic pathways used by plants (e.g., C3, C4) impart different 13C/12C ratios to plant tissues, and animals consuming those plant tissues, or consumers of those animals, will reflect the ratio ingested. Plants that utilize the C4 photosynthetic pathway, such as maize, are relatively enriched in the heavy carbon isotope (13C). Using standard d notation where δ13Cpdb13C/12Csample/13C/12C standard) - 1] ´ 1000, modern C4 plants have a mean δ13C value of -13.0‰ and generally range from –9‰ to –19‰ (Ehleringer and Monson 1993; Ehleringer et al. 1991; Farquhar et al. 1989; O’Leary 1988). Studies that examined modern North American maize kernel δ13C values show that it typically has a more positive mean value around –11.2‰ (Tieszen and Fagre 1993a). In contrast, C3 plants, which include nearly all the native plants in northeast USA, such as most trees, shrubs, and cool-growing-season grasses, use the C3 photosynthetic pathway (Sage et al. 1999), and are relatively enriched in the light carbon isotope (12C). Modern C3 plants have a mean δ13C value of –27.0‰ and typically range from -22‰ to –35‰ (Ehleringer and Monson 1993; Ehleringer et al. 1991; Farquhar et al. 1989; O’Leary 1988). It is important to note that due to fossil fuel burning, since the start of the Industrial Revolution the δ13C value of atmospheric CO2 has decreased about -1.5‰ (Friedli et al. 1986; Marino and McElroy 1991; Marino et al. 1992). Because of this change in atmospheric carbon isotope values, for archaeological sites such as Kipp Island, the mean δ13C value for pre-Industrial C3 plants is predicted to be –25.5‰, while pre-Industrial maize is predicted to be –9.7‰. This predicted value for archaeological maize is supported by the analysis of six maize kernels from archaeological sites in central New York, which provide a mean value of –9.7‰ ± 2.5‰ (Hart et al. 2002; Knapp 2002).

Animals will reflect the δ13C value of food in their tissues. Modern controlled feeding experiments on rats and mice showed that collagen δ13C values reflected the isotopic values of ingested protein, while the apatite mineral reflected the δ13C value of the whole diet (Ambrose and Norr 1993; Tieszen and Fagre 1993b). Because of isotopic discrimination within tissues, collagen carbon isotope value is generally +5‰ from the diet, such that a δ13C<sub>collagen</sub> value in an animal consuming a diet of pure maize is expected to be -4.7‰ (Ambrose and Norr 1993; Ambrose et al. 1997; Tieszen and Fagre 1993b). Similarly, the apatite mineral was shown to be +9.4‰ from the diet, such that a δ13Capatite value in an animal consuming a diet of pure maize is expected to be -0.3‰ (Ambrose and Norr 1993; Tieszen and Fagre 1993b; Ambrose et al. 1997). Moreover, within an individual, when consumed protein has the same δ13C value as the whole diet, the difference between the δ13Capatite and δ13C<sub>collagen</sub> will equal 4.4‰ (Harrison and Katzenberg 2003; Ambrose et al. 1997). Along these lines it has been shown that a δ13Capatite-collagen value greater than 4.4‰ suggests the consumption of a C3 protein and a C4 carbohydrate (i.e., maize), while a value less than 4.4‰ suggests the consumption of C3 carbohydrates, and a protein source with more positive carbon isotope values, such as animals focused on feeding predominantly on C4 plants or marine foods (Ambrose et al. 1997; Harrison and Katzenberg 2003). Thus, analysis of collagen δ13C values, apatite δ13C values, and the difference between apatite and collagen δ13C values from the same individual should permit the determination of whether maize was a dietary component at Kipp Island.

For this study, collagen as well as enamel apatite from the third molars of three individuals from Burial 26 were analyzed for δ13C values—one third molar each from 26c, 26e, and 26f/28 (Table 3.3). These individuals were among only a few burials where complete third molars were preserved in the collection. Based on the mineralization of human third molars, the sampled tissues (i.e., enamel apatite and dentin collagen) from these teeth should represent diets from individuals aged between about 9 and 21 years of age (Hillson 2005). Single apatite samples were taken from each of the three teeth, while two samples were taken from the dentin collagen. All samples were prepared and analyzed by Dr. R. H. Tykot (University of South Florida) following techniques outlined in Tykot (2006). To calculate the percentage of maize in the diets, we set a continuum of –25.5‰ to –9.7‰ for 100 percent C3 plants to 100 percent maize, respectively, with collagen isotope values expected to range from –20.5 to –4.7‰ (100 percent C3 to 100 percent C4), and enamel apatite isotope values expected to range from –16.1‰ to –0.3‰ (100 percent C3 to 100 percent C4).

Based on the δ13C values from both the collagen and enamel apatite, it appears clear that each of the three sampled individuals consumed maize. For samples 26c and 26e, dating to ca. cal A.D. 650, average δ13C<sub>collagen</sub> values imply at least a 21 percent contribution of maize to the diet, while the enamel apatite values imply a 39 percent contribution of maize. Sample 26f/28, dating a few hundred years later, appears to have consumed a higher percentage of maize. Based on the average δ13C<sub>collagen</sub> values, the contribution of maize to the diet in this individual is calculated to be 39 percent, while the contribution of maize based on the enamel apatite in this sample is 69 percent. The higher proportion of maize consumption in 26f/28 is not unanticipated as this individual lived nearly three centuries (ca. cal A.D. 931) after the others. Additionally, the lower percent maize contribution calculated from collagen compared to that calculated from enamel apatite was expected. Maize is only about 10 percent protein and is deficient in a number of amino acids (van der Merwe et al. 2003). Because of this, humans must consume alternate sources of protein, such as animal meat, which will contribute more to the collagen isotopically than the maize. If it is a C3 protein source, the collagen isotope values will preferentially indicate a lower proportion of maize in the diet.

Along these lines, added support of maize inclusion in the diets of these three individuals is provided by the comparison of enamel apatite to collagen δ13C values. The difference between the two tissues (δ13Capatite-collagen) is greater than 4.4‰ for all three samples, implying the consumption of mainly C3 proteins and maize. Scrutinizing the collagen data within the individual teeth reveals differences in δ13C values up to 2.0‰ for samples 26e and 26f/28 (Table 3.4). This difference may indicate seasonal dietary differences where maize is more prominent in the diet at some times of the year over others. The lack of difference in the two samples for 26c may indicate that inclusion of maize in the diet remained similar throughout the year, or that the two samples represent the same time period.

Table 3.4

Isotope Data from Third Molars of Three Interments at Kipp Island.

An early isotopic study that examined the presence of maize in ancient diets at sites in New York found that it became a prominent dietary component at ca. cal. A.D. 1000 (Vogel and van der Merwe 1977). Unfortunately, in that study there were no sites included that dated between A.D. 400 to cal. A.D. 1000, which appears to be a critical time period for examining when maize was being incorporated into diets in the region (Harrison and Katzenberg 2003; Hart et al. 2003, 2007; Katzenberg et al. 1995; Schwarcz et al. 1985; Vogel and van der Merwe 1977). Specific to Kipp Island, an earlier study at this site, which analyzed the stable carbon isotope values as well as the presence of particular phytoliths in cooking residues documented that maize was present by the early cal. seventh century A.D. (Hart et al. 2003, 2007). This current isotopic study extends this previous work and attempts to not only show that maize presence in diets has additional support but also to calculate how prominent maize was in Kipp Island diets over time. As provided by the data above, maize appears to be 39 percent of the whole diet by the middle of the cal. seventh century A.D., and increases in importance to 69 percent of the whole diet by the early cal. tenth century A.D. These data follow a pattern (i.e., increase in the prominence of maize in the diet) similar to that observed at sites from southern Ontario, Canada (Harrison and Katzenberg 2003). For the southern Ontario sites, the apatite mineral, indicative of whole diet, identified maize presence by ca. cal A.D. 500. Maize presence was not identified in collagen samples from southern Ontario until ca. cal A.D. 1000 (Harrison and Katzenberg 2003). Because maize was only identified in the apatite mineral (i.e., whole diet) and not collagen (i.e., protein) at the earlier sites in southern Ontario, it was suggested that maize likely started as a trade good and was only sparingly incorporated into diets. At the later southern Ontario sites, the isotopic signature of maize became apparent in the collagen as well as the apatite mineral reflecting its increasing dietary prominence. Comparatively, the stable carbon isotope data from the samples of Kipp Island collagen as well as enamel apatite clearly imply that maize was present and a prominent dietary component by at least the middle of the cal. seventh century A.D.


In his 1969 report on the Kipp Island 3 component, Ritchie (1969:241) speculated that “the subsistence economy of the Late Point Peninsula people included some use of horticultural products, since there is now reliable archaeological evidence for corn production in Hopewellian (Griffin, 1960; Prufer, 1964), one of the interacting cultures with the middle phase of the Point Peninsula.” Much has happened over the intervening decades in the histories of maize in northeastern North America, and in the interpretation of the Kipp Island site chronology, including that of the cemetery excavated by Ritchie in 1963.

As reviewed in this chapter, there is now evidence for maize use by the Kipp Island 3 site inhabitants in the form of phytolith assemblages extracted from directly AMS-dated cooking residues. As demonstrated in this chapter, there is new evidence in the form of caries frequencies and stable carbon isotope values that individuals interred in the cemetery, now assigned to the Kipp Island 3 component, ate maize. Ritchie’s speculation, then, was prescient. It is now abundantly clear that the Kipp Island 3 component inhabitants of the site were participants in a broad, generalized regional subsistence pattern that included maize, a pattern that has very deep histories.

Of course, making a conclusive statement of maize consumption intensity across the broader region, or even in the Finger Lakes region of New York, is impossible based on isotopic evidence from two individuals or the caries data from a single cemetery. However, we expect that there was substantial variation in maize consumption across the region as has been demonstrated in other portions of northeastern North America with evidence for “early” maize consumption (e.g., Rose 2008). What we can confidently state is (1) maize had the potential to contribute substantially to individual diets during the cal seventh-century A.D. in the Finger Lakes region, and (2) this potential apparently had little or no impact on regional settlement patterns. It is not until centuries later that nucleated villages, once thought to be a hallmark of maize agriculturists in the region, appear in the archaeological record.

We thank the three peer reviewers for their useful comments and suggestions. The newly reported AMS dates and isotope assays were funded by the New York State Museum.

1Three of the dates are substantially older than anticipated, including ISGS-A0650 and ISGS-A0651 on tooth collagen from burials 26E and 26F, respectively. These dates can be dismissed as a result of contamination of the collagen samples. Another unacceptably early date is ISGS-A0591 on a fragment of cordage from the fill of Burial 21. This, too, is evidently the result of contamination.

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