Posts Tagged ‘Carolina Bay’

Blood Residue Found on Flamingo Bay, South Carolina Artifacts

November 6, 2013

Flamingo Bay is an ancient Carolina Bay located on the Savannah River Site in Aiken County, South Carolina.  Over one thousand Carolina Bays pockmark the southeastern coastal plain of North America.  Most were formed during cold arid stages of Ice Ages between 40,000 BP-7,000 BP, but Flamingo Bay is an older example of a Carolina Bay.  Flamingo Bay originated about 108,000 years ago and was “rejuvenated” about 40,000 years ago.  The formation of Carolina Bays is an interesting complex process.  During Ice Ages dry climates prevailed in the south as much of earth’s water became locked in glacial ice.  This caused peat swamps to dry and become susceptible to lightning-induced fire.  The peat burned away creating depressions in the ground, and wind erosion enlarged these depressions.  Southwesterly winds, much stronger than those of today, were a regular part of the weather pattern then.  The southwesterly winds gave Carolina Bays their directional orientation which is northwest-southeast–perpendicular to the wind.  Wetter climate phases turned Carolina Bays into shallow lakes, and ponded water pushed by wind eroded these bays into their characteristic oval shape. Carolina Bays were formed at the same time eolian sand dunes rolled across the landscape and the 2 geological wonders are often associated together.  Carolina Bays have sandy lips.    About 7,000 years ago, the water table rose to its present level and Carolina Bays became filled with water and stopped forming.  Flamingo Bay is usually flooded year round but the depth is shallow, less than 3 feet, and during severe draughts it occasionally becomes dry.

Aerial photograph of a Carolina Bay.  Carolina Bays are of varying ages, debunking the claim that they resulted from a single extra-terrestrial impact.

Ground level photo of Flamingo Bay.  Flamingo Bay is 1 of many protected natural areas within the Savannah River Site.  A beech-hardwood forest, an environment not normally found on the coastal plain, is another interesting protected natural area here.

Late during the Pleistocene (about 13,000 BP), wind blew sand over a couple Clovis artifacts left next to Flamingo Bay.  Archaic Indians left even more artifacts next to the bay about 10,200 calender years BP and again about 9,000 calender years BP, and wind blown sand from the bay covered these as well.  Archaeologists from the Savannah River Archaeological Program excavated these artifacts a few years ago.  They include points, blades, and scrapers; most made from Allendale chert (a type of stone) but 2 were made of victric tuff and 1 from quartz.  Archaeologists, using microscopic examination, determined the tools were used for wood whittling, boring, and hide scraping.  The tools were associated with burned hickory nuts and grape seeds, and gizzards stones (gastroliths) from birds they butchered.  Apparently, the paleo-Indians of the late Pleistocene and the archaic Indians of the early Holocene both processed hickory nuts in pits next to the bay.  Hickory nuts were an important item of their diet, providing much needed fat.  Archaeologists used the burned hickory nuts for radio-carbon dating.  (I translated these radio-carbon dates to calender years for this essay.)  Paleo and archaic Indians heavily utilized the resources found near Flamingo Bay.  The bay was likely surrounded by a rich hardwood forest that attracted game and waterfowl.  Artifacts from later Woodland and Mississippian cultures have been found in this vicinity too but to a much lesser degree, so the site was not as important for them as it was for the more ancient Indians.

Some of the artifacts found here had blood residue on them.  Scientists are able to pair tiny amounts of blood residue with the type of animal it originated from but usually not to the species level. (I believe there’s not enough for DNA testing.)  The residue is placed in a solution with a toxin, and the anti-bodies from the residue attack the antigen (the technical term for the toxin that binds with the antibodies).  Scientists can then identify the class of antibodies and match it with the animal.  The blood residue from the artifacts tested positive for bovine, deer, turkey, and another type of gallinaceous bird–either grouse or quail.  The bovine blood likely came from a Bison antiquus, an extinct ancestor of the modern bison.  The bovine blood residue was found on the Clovis artifact.  Bison antiquus was the  species of bison that lived in North America 13,000 years ago.  It’s not completely certain this artifact is of Clovis age.  If this is the case, the blood residue originated from a modern bison (Bison bison).  It’s also possible, but not likely, that the blood was from a woodland musk-ox (Symbos cavifrons).  Woodland musk-oxen did range as far south as Louisiana and Mississippi, but no fossils of this species have been found in South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida.  I suspect woodland musk-oxen migrated up and down the Mississippi River Valley and did not range this far east.

Reference:

Moore, Chistopher; and Mark Brooks, Larry Kimball, Margaret Newman, and Brian Kooyman

Use Wear  and Protein Residue Analysis of an in situ Clovis Assemblage from a Carolina Bay on the Coastal Plain of South Carolina

Poster Session 5A 2013 Paleo-American Odyssey

New Radio-carbon date on the Long-horned bison specimen found at Clark Quarry

My photo of the long-horned bison skull found at Clarks Quarry near Brunswick Georgia and housed at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia.  The photo doesn’t really do the size justice.  A man could hang a hammock between the points of the horns and rest comfortably inside.  The first radio-carbon date on this specimen was 14,000 radiocarbon years.  It has since been redated to 21,000 radiocarbon years.

A specimen of a long-horned bison (Bison latifrons) found at Clark Quarry near Brunswick, Georgia was radio-carbon dated to 14,000 years BP.  Paleontologists think Bison antiquus evolved from Bison latifrons about ~24,000 years ago. Based on this find, I speculated that Bison latifrons co-existed with Bison antiquus in the southeast much later than scientists thought.  However, I recently learned this specimen was radio-carbon dated a second time, and the result was more in line with scientist’s assumptions.  The new date for the specimen in the photo is about 24,000 calender years BP.  Both Bison antiquus and Bison latifrons were at least 25% larger than modern bison.  Bison latifrons had the longest horns of the 3 species, while modern bison have the shortest.  The extinct species of bison were likely much fiercer than their modern descendents and were built for fighting off lions and saber-tooths.

The Silver Bluff Audubon Center

November 28, 2011

I planned to visit the Moody Nature Preserve over Thanksgiving break, but I changed my mind because I hate driving.  Instead, I went to The Silver Bluff Audubon Center near Silver Bluff, South Carolina.  It was a 45 minute drive from my house vs. a 3 hour drive to the Moody Preserve.  The shorter distance beat sitting in a car half the day.

The SBAC is located in the boondocks.  Silver Bluff Road runs off Old Jackson Highway, an area of second growth forest, agricultural land, and factories.  The latter are located here to take advantage of the state’s anti-union oppression.  A large wheat field borders the bird sanctuary.  The last 2 miles of Silver Bluff Road consists of unpaved but well graded dirt.  The road leads to the Savannah River but to reach the hiking trails it’s only necessary to drive about half that distance.

Map of the SBAC. I hiked the Tanager Loop Trail.  It’s supposed to be about 2 miles, but I think it’s slightly longer than that.  The Tanager Trail is well marked and easy to follow.

This ancient dwelling is near the beginning of Tanager Trail.  It looks like an outhouse, but someone probably lived in it a long time ago.  Perhaps it was a hunting cabin.  It’s surrounded by overgrown chinaberry trees (I think).

Over 200 species of birds have been recorded at the SBAC, and I saw about 5 % of them in the hour I was there.  I suppose, if I could have stayed all day, I could have easily doubled that number.  I didn’t see any of the rare birds that make this preserve special–bald eagles, Cooper’s hawks, wood storks, Bachman’s sparrows, prairie warblers, Swainson’s warblers, and loggerhead shrikes.  All of these species breed here, but some are migrants.  I didn’t see the ponds where the water level is managed for the wood storks.  Wood storks require shallow water that supports an abundance of small aquatic vertebrates.  They nest close to shallow water, making it easy to feed their young.  I did see a wood stork last spring around the corner from my house as it flew over a wooded stream.

The 10 species of birds I did see were common–white breasted nuthatches, Le Conte’s sparrows, downy woodpeckers, rufous sided towhees, mourning doves, cardinals, crows, redwinged black birds, and turkey vultures.  This was the first time I’d ever noticed and identified the white breasted nuthatch, though I realize now I’ve seen them many times in the past.  They occur in pairs, and I did see 2 flying together.  The other hiking trail is actually named the White Breasted Nuthatch Trail.  On the way to this preserve I drove on bridges over Phinizy Swamp, Merry Brickyard Ponds, and the Savannah River, and I spotted 4 additional species–black vultures, common mergansers, great blue herons, and egrets.  None of the birds in the SBAC cooperated with my attempts to photograph them.  They kept flitting about and perching high in the trees.

There’s an open pine savannah with longleaf pine and wire grass alongside the unpaved road that leads to the trails, but I didn’t stop to photograph it.  I didn’t see any longleaf pine trees along the trail I hiked, though much of the forest is quite open there, and the fires they use to manage the savannah have undoubtedly spread here.

Much of the forest in the SBAC is open like this.  It consists of a few species of pine and many species of oak.  These are loblolly pine, I believe.  Shortleaf pine and loblolly pine hybridize and some of the trees showed characteristics of both.

Many of the pine tree trunks are charred, showing evidence of fires.  The fires used to manage the open pine savannah evidentally spread here.  Both pines and oaks are fire resistant.  Most pine and oak trees over 3 years old can survive light ground fires.  Some species of oak, however, are somewhat less fire resistant.  They may survive, but the fire damage makes them vulnerable to diseases which rot out the wood and create snags.

Here’s an oak tree that was wrecked by a storm, probably earlier this past summer.

Common trees along the Tanager Trail that I identified include loblolly pine, shortleaf pine, hybrid pines, water oak, laurel oak, Shumard’s oak, southern red oak, black or cherry bark oak (I can’t tell the difference), blackjack oak, swamp chestnut oak, post oak, overcup oak, sweetgum, hickory, beech, and tupelo.  The composition suggests what botanists might refer to as a mesophitic river terrace forest because most of the species prefer moist sites.  I had never noticed and identified Shumard’s oak before, though I’ve certainly seen it.  Shumard’s oak can grow to 100 feet tall.  It’s a valuable species utilized for reforesting bottomlands due to its fast growth rate.  Swamp chestnut oak occurs here as well.  It’s also known as cow oak because its acorns are palatable enough for cows to eat.

Spanish moss grows on most of the hardwoods here.

Is this a dried out Carolina Bay?  I took this photo while standing on a boardwalk, but last summer must have been so dry the water here completely evaporated.  Tupelo trees grow here.  They normally grow partially submerged.  I think this might be a Carolina Bay.

There’s lots of snags in these woods.

The tree on the right is a beech.  I’m always excited to find this northern species in Georgia.  I couldn’t identify the tree on the left because the leaves had all fallen off, but there were a lot of hickory leaves on the ground around the trunk.

Note the woodpecker hole at the very top of the debarked tree.  Did the woodpeckers debark their nesting tree?

A windstorm knocked this tree precariously over the trail.  Several other trees were knocked over in a neat row.  Tornado or downburst?

Photo of the trunk of the leaning tree in the previous photo.  The base is cracked.

The trail goes through a planted pine plantation.  I couldn’t believe the trail sign pointed this way.  I thought some practical joker had twisted the sign because a trail criscrossed this one.  Luckily, I did follow the sign.  Trees are harvested here, but for the most part the management is beneficial for the birds.  This was the dullest part of the trail, though a big flock of redwinged blackbirds flew over us here.

I saw deer tracks and heard a squirrel barking–the only mammal life I detected here.  Surrounding this deer track are fallen leaves from laurel oak, water oak, and overcup oak.

If I would have had more time I would have walked down the unpaved road to the river.  I hiker can easily get over 5 miles of enjoyable walking here on the trails and unpaved road.  On the Friday after Thanksgiving there were only 2 other cars parked here, so it’s not at all crowded.