One of the original endangered species is about to be delisted. The Delmarva fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) will be removed from the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after populations have rebounded to an estimated 20,000 individuals throughout most of the Delmarva Peninsula (eastern Maryland, southern Delaware, and a tiny piece of Virginia). When it was listed as endangered in 1967, the DFS’s range had been reduced to a small portion of Maryland. The DFS is about twice as big as the more common and widespread gray squirrel (S. carolinensis) and has been described as more laid back – they prefer to quietly roam around forest floors rather than race through trees.
Overhunting and habitat destruction accounted for their endangerment, and they have not been able to adapt to the modern suburban and urban environment as well as the gray squirrel. Stable populations of other subspecies of fox squirrel exist in many states in the eastern half of the United States, but fox squirrels are not found in New Jersey (where they were probably extirpated by the early 1900s) and New England.
Making use of museum-based collections — even, or especially, from sites excavated nearly one hundred years ago — is essential to regional research. Julia A. King writes about collections-based research in the first of a series of posts on collections and curation at the SHA’s website. King’s insight comes from her work on the “Colonial Encounters: The Lower Potomac Valley at Contact, 1500-1720” project, which synthesized data from over 30 archaeological sites in Maryland and Virginia.
One unsurprising conclusion: “Perhaps the most troubling issue we observed is a disciplinary mindset (for want of a better phrase) which continues to foster the never-ending field season, resulting in un-cataloged or under-cataloged collections along with no site report.”
A Jack’s Reef point was found at the Lamoka Lake site during the Buffalo Museum of Science excavations. These pentagonal or corner-notched pentagonal points date to the Kipp Island Phase (beginning around A.D. 500) of the Middle Woodland in New York State. Farther south, they are associated with the equivalent Webb Phase.
Darrin Lowery recently looked at Jack’s Reef in the Delmarva Peninsula (i.e., parts of Delaware, Maryland, and a little bit of Virginia). Important sites include Island Field in Delaware, which had over 100 human burials, bone tools, shell beads, shark teeth, and more, and the Riverton Site (18WC5) in Maryland, another burial site (unfortunately not professionally excavated), which had stone platform pipes, a Ramah chert knife, and stone celts and adzes.
Jack’s Reef sites can be found eroding out of the shore line, such as at the Oxford (18TA3) and Wheatley’s Point (18DO371) sites in Maryland. One major find at the latter site was a cache of fossil shark teeth. Lowery found and excavated the Upper Ridge Site (44NH440) in Virginia, which had an midden with food remains, including a large number of fish bones. VA. The lithic evidence at Upper Ridge documents the entire sequence of manufacturing Jack’s Reef points, from core to flake to finished product.
Lowery, Darrin L.
2013 Jack’s Reef in in the Chesapeake and Delmarva Region: Research into the Coastal Archaeology of the Era Between circa Cal A.D. 480 and Cal A.D. 900. Archaeology of Eastern North America 41:5-30.