Production of Lead Shot Identified at Chief Black Hawk's Village

Mark Wagner (Director of the Center for Archaeological Investigations- Southern Illinois University-Carbondale) and several SIUC graduate students—David Birnbaum (MA) and PhD student Kayeleigh Sharp—have discovered evidence for lead shot production by historic Sauk Indians at the Crawford Farm site in northwestern Illinois. The site was partially excavated by Dr. Elaine Bluhm, University of Illinois in the 1960s prior to its destruction by road construction.  The analysis of the site, home of the famous Sauk Chief Black Hawk, is being funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation and the material is on loan from the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, During the SIU-C analysis of the archaeological collection, researchers came across a bottom section of a copper kettle with about 40 holes punched through the metal. Wagner noticed a white residue around some of the holes suggestive of use as a sieve to make lead shot. The process the Sauk may have used to produce the lead shot involved melting lead in the kettle which would then drop through the holes and into a pail of water to form shot. They apparently threw the sieve part away when they later recycled the kettle.

SIUC graduate students Birnbaum and Sharp used a PXRF (Portable X-Ray Fluorescence) instrument to identify the chemical composition of the white residue and were able to confirm that it is indeed lead. Independent confirmation of the chemical composition as lead came from looking at the artifact and residues through a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) located at another laboratory on the SIUC campus. The SEM also showed that the holes in the sieve are square indicating the Sauk punched the holes with a square nail or a square-bodied awl.

Sieves such as this have been reported in the historic literature but rarely are they recovered from archaeological contexts. Without noting the subtle lead residues, excavators may have identified such artifacts as scrap metal of little importance. Mark Wagner and colleagues will be presenting the results of their research at upcoming conferences and publications.

 

Crawford Farm kettle base with hole 

Crawford Farm kettle base with hole

Crawford Farm SEM, D. Birnbaum and K. Sharp (SIUC) 

Crawford Farm SEM, D. Birnbaum and K. Sharp (SIUC)

Crawford Farm kettle fragment in SEM maching computer screen

Crawford Farm kettle fragment in SEM
maching computer screen

Crawford Farm Close up of Seive hole with Pb BSED

 Crawford Farm Close up of Seive hole with Pb BSED