Basketmaker II stone-boiling technology at Cedar Mesa, Utah: an experimental study
Holstad, Emily C.
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The presence of limestone has been noted by archaeologists among midden scatters associated with Grand Gulch phase (A.D. 200 to 400) Basketmaker II habitation sites (Matson et al. 1988), and it has been suspected that the stones are remnants of stone boiling activities. Recent experimental evidence obtained from both natural as well as archaeological CedarMesa limestone supports this supposition chemically as well as nutritionally. Data collected from heating and boiling with natural limestone suggests local Cedar Mesa geological sources possess quality stone able to produce chemical lime through the application of high levels of heat. Assessments of protein quality also indicate that boiling maize with this heated limestonecauses significant shifts in essential amino acid content. Key physical indicators, such as density shifts during lab heating compared to similar measurements of stones recovered from a Basketmaker II site located on Cedar Mesa, attest to the likelihood that these groups were subjecting their local limestone sources to the high levels of heat necessary to create the slaked lime that would have enhanced the protein availability of maize.