Archaeological Report Number
In October of 1988 I was contacted by Terri Bussey of the Grand Rapids Inter-Tribal Council concerning the putative Sun Circle at Beaver Island. She came to my office at the University a few days later, bringing maps and photographs, and we discussed the site at some length. This comprised my first direct information about the site, my prior knowledge being confined to remarks by students who had seen stories In the Detroit press, and some conversation with professional colleagues at the Midwest Archaeological Conference at Urbana-Champaign a week or two earlier.
At Ms. Bussey's. request I tentatively agreed to come to Beaver Island with a student field crew In early spring to carry out test excavation for the purpose of locating evidence of early historic or prehistoric activity In the vicinity of the Sun Circle. As a professional courtesy, I then wrote to Dr. Donald Heldman, Director of Archaeology, MISPC, whom I understood had carried out some limited excavation at the Sun Circle during the summer of 1988, in order to secure his agreement that I conduct more extensive testing. I also asked Dr. Heldman for information about any cultural materials he had found at or near the site. In a letter from Heldman to Garland, dated 6 December 1988, Dr. Heldman welcomed my plans to test excavate the presumed area of settlement near the Sun Circle (historically known as Peshawbestown), and provided information on his prior work, along with various interpretations of the Sun Circle. Heldman reported having excavated one 2 by 4 foot pit adjacent to and partially under the east side of the center stone In the Sun Circle. Using 1/4 inch mesh, he reported finding debitage In three strata: a black organically enriched layer Q at the top, a grey loam below this; and a brown loam below the grey stratum. He stated in this letter that he had been unable to find charcoal in the top layer.
On January 24, 1989, I spoke by telephone with Dr. Earl Prahl who had twice visited the site during the previous summer. Accompanied by Terri Bussey, he had examined a number of surface features in and near the Sun Circle. Prahl stated that he excavated two 18 inch test squares, one 50 feet north and one 50 feet south of the center stone. He troweled out these tests and found nothing in either one.
Prahl visited the site again shortly before Labor Day, 1988, accompanied by Dr. Charles Cleland. Cleland and Prahl mapped the Sun Circle at this time, and placed several small test excavations in other areas. They redug Heldman's profile adjacent to the center stone, and concluded that the soil layers represented a podzol (Earl Prahl, personal communication). Prahl and Cleland recovered no debitage or other evidence of human activity in their limited testing.
On February 1, 1989 I received from Earl Prahl the lithic materials found by Heldman in his pit excavation near the center stone. I examined this material the following day and concluded that it is of wholly natural origin, consisting of spalls from patinated glacial chert pebbles and miscellaneous blocky fragments of chert lacking platforms.
Commentary to date concerning the Beaver Island Sun Circle, among archaeologists and in the press, has generated considerably more heat than light. As I informed Terri Bussey in October of 1988, my willingness to undertake test excavation would be narrowly focussed, with the following objectives:
- Expanded test excavation in the vicinity of the Sun Circle seemed to be a first priority; in particular it would be useful to determine if prehistoric settlement had existed in the vicinity of the historic Ottawa village Peshawbestown, located near the Sun Circle.
- The reported garden bed near the airport should be investigated.
- I would be unable to do follow up work (if indicated) myself, due to prior commitments, but another archaeologist would perhaps do so.