Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth B. Garland

Second Advisor

Dr. William Cremin

Third Advisor

Dr. Allen Zagarell

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Studies of prehistoric Native American subsistence patterns have benefited greatly from data recovered through the technique of flotation, which allows investigators to recover small scale organic remains which would otherwise be missed using standard excavation procedures. Using data recovered through flotation researchers have been able to more fairly evaluate the role of plant foods, both wild and cultivated, in the aboriginal diet.

A common method of obtaining a flotation sample is to define a column through the center of the cultural feature or midden and removing a specified volume of soil matrix (usually 10 liters) from this column. This thesis project is designed to test the effectiveness of this data recovery technique at Elam, a Woodland Period site in Allegan County, Michigan. Six prehistoric pit features were selected for this study. After the excavation of half of the feature to obtain a profile, a 20 cm flotation column was defined and removed, followed by the removal of the remaining half of the feature as an extra flotation sample. The objective was to evaluate how well the data from the column represented the contents of the feature as a whole. This thesis describes the experiment and its results.