With the execution of Work Authorizations under Contract# 85-1115 between the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Department of State, and Western Michigan University, authorizing Phase I and preliminary Phase II archaeological investigations at the New Buffalo Weigh Stations project along I-94 in Berrien County, Michigan, a team of researchers from the Department of Anthropology performed a systematic and intensive site location survey of the project area on 17 Nov 85 and preliminary test excavation of the New Buffalo Weigh Station site (20BE380) on 22-23 Mar 86.
Following our initial visit to the project in November, surveyors were able to clear all but that portion of the project along westbound I-94 where prehistoric lithic debris and fire-cracked rock were noted in a small field occupying about 4,000 m2 of uplands on the south side of Squaw Creek where this stream passes through the study area.
Preliminary Phase II investigation of 20BE380 in March commenced with the recollection of the surface of the field followed by excavation of 20 test squares located both in the field and in the 15-20 m wide strip of fallow, grass-covered land between the field and the creek on the north. The recovery of four diagnostic projectile points, together with lithic debitage and FCR, both from the surface of the field and test units, confirm the proposed Archaic (and possibly Woodland) temporal placement of this site. However, our excavations revealed. that the cultural material recovered was confined entirely to the disturbed zone resulting from many years of cultivation of the entire site area. Nowhere did we observe midden deposits or cultural features affording the context necessary to identify the nature of the prehistoric occupation(s) of 20BE380, thus seriously compromising the potential significance of the site. In the absence of undisturbed cultural context by which we might assess the potential significance of the site, together with those observations that the research team has recorded, it is not felt that 20BE380 is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
In the final analysis, 20BE380 appears to represent what might be anticipated of sites occupying the alternating sand ridge/wetland setting in the Galien River Basin given Mangold's (1981) recent assessment of the prehistoric occupation of this drainage. It is in all probability a temporary and seasonal encampment, not unlike the nearby Mulzon site (20BE239) described by Mangold in his recent report.
In light of Mangold's emphasis on the location of the Galien River Basin intermediate between the drainage of the Kankakee River to the south and the valley of the St. Joseph River on the north and its potential role in prehistoric and early historic aboriginal movement and interaction about the head of Lake Michigan, it may be regarded as significant that more than 20% of the lithic assemblage from 20BE380 consists of nonlocal or exotic chert. This observation strongly suggests that human groups occupying the Galien Basin (and the New Buffalo Weigh Station site) had direct access to or were in contact with groups residing in the neighborhood of high quality chert sources in Illinois, Ohio, southeastern Michigan, and nearby Indiana.