RENNER SITE POPULATION STUDIES
The Renner Site has always been referred to as a "village". In the broad range of things, I suppose it was. However, if you look into detail as I did, we'll find it was more of a simple farm community.
Carbon dates show dates from 250 BC to 950 AD, or 1,200 years. One underlying problem is these dates are almost 40 years old with no dating done since. A few of the dates are "GAK dates" done in Japan where in recent years a few scientists believe were done incorrectly. (SCI: 2009)
I intend to do my best attempt at providing a population study givin the limited evidence.
The problem with any study of this type is the lack of evidence, but we do have much evidence one can use. In this case, I've used every reliable means I have available.
Let's start with the evidence. From everything from Nebo Hill points to Mississippian Points, we know the site was occupied at on time or another for over 4,000 years. Because the carbon dating provides us with middle woodland samples and it's my belief the main occupation of the site was between in that period.
I believe the Renner people had migrated from the lower Illinois Valley between 250 and 150 BC. I believe that migration and transition lasted maybe 200 years. [Douglas K. Charles, Kampsville Research Series, Volume 7,1988]
That report is from the Elizabeth Site which was a site associated with burial mounds. I believe the Renner people came from this area largely because of the pottery designs shown in their report which seem to be identical matches to Renner despite the 320 mile difference.
In the Elizabeth report, much attention was given to the analysis of the remains in the mound groups and that's where their report becomes important. Their defining importance was the ages of the people who were given burial privilages and that becomes important to defining the population of Renner in comparision.
It should be noted that only two of the 20 recorded Renner mounds have any dates and that some may be archaic mounds, which are rare. The two recorded were between 300 AD and 400 AD +/-.
Burial sites are important because they are tied into the frequency of the population either at Renner or the density of the area as a whole. They define the village: the population. Hours were spent building a mound or a vault and that required workers many hours if not days. Vaults were designed to be reused and so were mounds. In the case of the vaults, they were more like stone ingloos with a doorway where one could re enter. Mounds likely began in the Archaic period beginning as burial pits. Subsequent users laid bodies over that with dirt for generation as a common memorial. At Renner this was likely the case with mounds 23PL29 and 23PL30, which were large mounds as descibed by Shippee. [Missouri Site Report: 1947]
So here's our evidence.
Shippee reported the site as 6.5 acres in his first visit to the site in 1921.
Wedel (1937) estimated 5 3/4 acres. In Shippee's report in 1964 he reported 5 acres. This author (Brenner) believes the site was closer to seven acres because Shippee and Wedel's observations were limited to the area that had been plowed. Between 1920 and 1940, only an average of 7 acres was plowed because that's all the property owned by the Renner-Brenner's at the time.
For this report, I'm using 6 acres.
On the two nearby bluffs Shippee reported 20 burial mounds. We know two of the mounds were constructed between 300 AD and 450 AD from carbon dating.
We know from the Charles report the average age of interment falls into two categories: young children and adults. The oldest adults were 50+. The average was 23. The average age at death of a healty adult was about 37 among both males and females.
The pathology report for the Elizabeth site showed the main cause of death as anemia and periostitis.
Six acres equals 283,140 square feet. Of that, only 6,827 have been completely excavated as shown in the table below. I had to choose a variable so I chose the number of spearpoints. If I'd had used any other variable, the numbers would have been off the charts. The next closest variable would have been just any tool.
|Excavation area||# of spear points||% points vs area sq.ft.||pits||% of pits per area square foot.|
|Total excavated area||total spear points||average per surface sq ft||pits||avg per sq ft.|
Of the 283,140 square feet, 6,827 have been excavated. About 60,000 square feet was destoryed when Vivion Road was put in the mid 1930's. About 30,000 sq ft was destroyed when the Great Lakes Pipe Line installed 5 lines through the property in the early 1930's. The Renner home was builit in 1921 and destroyed about 1,000 square feet. Through commercial development of a new City Hall, approximately 141,578 square feet has been lost since 2000. That leaves 43,735 virgin square feet.
I belive items such as spear points, were placed in pits and not "accidentally" just left on the ground. Through the 2,000 years of freezes and thaws, the artifacts closest to the top of the pits were naturally moved to the surface. Then there was the 70 years of plowing which re-distributed the artifacts.
For this, I'm using a direct correlation of spear points v.s. pits.
If you expand these known numbers to the entire original square footage in 1921.
|Total area||Total Spear points||Total Pits|
If one assumes complete spear points were put into storage pits, then each storage pit would contain an average of 25 spear points which becomes an important part of this study.
Using the available carbon dates, they show the Renner site was occupied from 250 BC to 950 AD, or 1,200 years. If you remove the uncalibrated numbers and just stick with the designated dates, we have have from 100 BC to 750 AD, or 850 years.
For this study, I'll stick with the 850 years because the general occupation was during the Woodland Period.
With simple numbers, 83 spear points were made per year and only 3.3 pits were dug per year.
That math works out to about 7 spear points per month. Pits were only three per year. To me, this says one family. This math has a hard time working because even if only two people lived there through the ages that 7 spear points per month would bring in dinner for 30 days?
Okay, I'm like you. Even if you through out the completed spear point idea, you can't discount the fact the average number of pits were only 3.3 per year!
My purpose is to provide evidence the Renner Site was not a village, but a farm with maybe 3 or 4 residents at any given time at the most. The question will ultimately be is what made them stay so long and how did they do it for 850 years!
For a population study, the number of assumed storage pits are a critical factor. The evidence shows maybe three pits were dug per year. But at any given time, who knows how many were 'open'. I do believe that ultimately all pits became trash pits of different sorts. There is no 'cache' storage pit simply just filled with exotic goods, otherwise they'd all been found at the bottom and simply covered. All pits show a transition of sorts. Because items like leather, grass, woven baskets, etc., disappeared in time, we just don't know the full meaning of the pits.
I believe most were meant for storage of several kinds, with most being meat products cuting winter. That reason being that the river was right there. It would have been easier just to dump any trash into the river.
Even though the evidence shows only three pits were dug per year, that doesn't mean that at anytime there weren't at least twice that many 'open' at once. The math shows on average that each pit was open or was in use for 112 days.
The pit evidence show a constant state of transition. I believe they are our window into the past. For example, if you killed a deer in the middle of winter and just took off enough meat to feed your family and then threw the rest in a pit for later, then 2,000 years later, an archaeologist would just find the cut up bones; the antlers and otherwise the remains of not only that deer, but perhaps several others.
This would imply some 'filled' pits were somehow marked and known and reused. There wer likely times no one was at the 'farm' and when others returned, the marked areas were gone. Thus, this would present a possible answer for some pits to contain copper pins, exotic pipes, clay effigies, perfect spearpoints and the occasional exotic items. Wedel (1943) asserted this was an occupation in a state of cultural transition.
THE BURIAL MOUNDS
My purpose of the known burial sites is to tie in the investigations done nearly 90 years ago, with understanding the Renner population
Twenty known mounds occupied the bluffs to the east and west of the Renner Site less than 1/4 mile. Of the 20, 2 were west of Renner. As reported by Shippee (Shippee:1964), one was nearly 60 feet in diameter and 8 feet tall and appeared to be a mass grave over a period of time. The graves on the east side were destroyed by 1940. As best as can be recovered through writings, most were vaults and possibly two mounds of similar type as the east mounds. It should be noted that at least in winter, all mounds were in view of the Renner Site.
Of the 20 'mounds' it appears through historical evidence that twelve were actually mounds of various sizes and the other 8 were 'vaults'. Vaults were stone walled structures about 8 x 8 feet square with dry laid stone walls about 3' high and nearly 2' thick and all had an entrance to the east. Photos are on the "history tab". We can only imagine they were covered with logs and overlaid with stones and dirt. Before the West and Fowke excavations, they would likely have appeared as smaller mounds. (West:1877)
This suggests a multitude of options with the first two being that that either the vaults and mounds were created at different times for different people (cultures), or that we're dealing with Wedel's thought of constant transition and influences. In other words, why did some people get vaults and others mounds unless it was either it was a matter of importance or the transition of cultural time. (Wedel 1943:156)
We only have dates from two mounds. Brenner mound #1 and #2. Both of these were the vault type. The carbon dating these two vaults were constructed between 300 and 400 AD. The carbon dating was obtained from charcoal in the vault, which means fire. It brings evidence that at least these two vaults (23PL29 and 23PL25) were used numerous times and each time were set on fire at some point. Possibly to make room for the next person?
One problem is my evidence shows "23PL29" was actually 5 different vaults. And 23PL25 was 3 vaults. The others were mound features (Chapman:1947)
VAULTS-- all on the bluff east of Renner now known as the Indian Hill/Briarcliff subdivision.
23PL29-- AD 300-400
1 8.5 x 8.5 x 4 5 +/- 2 bodies
2 8.5 x 8 x 3 5 +/- 2 bodies
3 8 x 8.5 x 3.5 5 +/- 3 bodies
4 8 x 8 x 3 5 +/- 2 bodies
5 8 x 8 3.5 5 +/-2 bodies
TOTAL POSSIBLE REMAINS FOR 23PL29: 36 to 14. Average would be 25.
23PL25-- AD 300-400
6 9 x 9 x 3 5 +/-2 bodies
7 8.6 x 8.6 x 3.5 5 bodies
8 7.6 x 7.6 x 2.6 5
TOTAL POSSIBLE REMAINS FOR 23PL25: 17 to 13. Average would be 15. Total vault burials were between 53 and 40, or an average of 5.8 per vault = 46.5 individuals.
MOUNDS - no known dates
9 unknown (Chapman 1947) 5 bodies (believed to me 23PL23 to the west of Renner)
10 Brenner mound #2 5 bodies (known to be on the east bluff)
11 - 16 unknown 6 mounds 30 bodies (believed to be on the east bluff)
17 23PL35 5 bodies
18 23PL24 5 bodies
19 23PL30 60' diam, 4' tall 20 bodies (known to be west of Renner)
20 unknown 5 bodies
TOTAL REPORTED MOUND BURIALS: 75
TOTAL BURIALS: 128 +/- 13, or an average of 121.
Using the Elizabeth formula (Charles 1988:117), only .033% placed in burials. Assuming all burials were from the Woodland period or otherwise associated with the main occupation of the Renner Site village, then that provides a population of 3600 between the average known dates from 100 BC to 800 AD, or an average per year of 4 individuals occupied Renner per year.
Another way to look at it is over the 900 years, a body was intered about every 7 years.
Besides the obvious distinction between a vault and mound burial, we have no known dates for the mound burials. One would assume there is a cultural difference or preference between the mounds and vaults. Past history shows vaults were prepared for leaders and mounds were possibly at the same time for less important people or at the time when the village was nearing the end. Wedel (1943) had an understanding of this problem.
So far, what does this tell us?
It tells us over 900 years, 3,600 people dug 2,831 pits and manufactured 70,785 spearpoints and buried 121 people.
According to the Elizabeth report, we know the average age of bodies fell into two groups. The first was children less than 10 years of age. The average age of the adult life (according to burial information) was 46. The common age of death found in the Elizabeth report is 27.
We have enough information to give us some prelimary results.
The 3,600 individuals will have been responsible for the following:
1) Twenty spearpoints will have been manufactured for each person.
2) Each person will have dug about only 1 pit in their life, or about 1 pit represents each person.
We've already established the average number of people at Renner were 4 per year. So, we can assume that in any given year, 4 pits will have been dug and 80 spearpoints will be made. Which would seem to support the idea of only 4 people per year! Carbon dates show the village had more times of occupation than others. Those dates the maximum population to occur around 150 AD and again around 550 AD.
While the study supports an average of 4 individuals per year, it can give us clues to the ages of each individual at any given time. What's most important is that I believe it will show the site could not have maintained 'marriages' and children without outside or nearyby village help, which in my belief would have been the Line Creek and Trowbridge sites.
Without outside help, it's almost impossible to come up with the math for four people to have kids and continue the site for 900 years except for the obvious.
The outside help likely came through the individuals who did not actually live on the site, but lived close, such as the Line Creek site or Trowbridge.
One has to assume that the proximity of the burial sites were in direct connection with Renner. There's no way to account for the outside influences other than the evidence shows there had to be.
On a rough scale, one could calculate the population of a similar site given the following information.
1) Area of the site.
2) Known body count in burials.
3) Number of projectile points found in a specific area.
4) Number of pits in a specific area.
5) Radiocarbon dates, I.E. Length of time occupied
6) Calculated individual life span for the period.
The most basic math shows that 1 pit = 1 person.
To somewhat confirm that, we know the average pit contained 25 spearpoints regardless of complete or whole.
At Renner, another way to approach this is at Renner, one acre supported 78.65 individuals over 900 years, or about 1 individual per acre per year through the Woodland period. (about 700 years)
ASSOCIATIONS WITH DIESTER AND TROWBRIDGE and CONCLUSIONS.
Shippee (Archaeological Survey: 1956), reported Line Creek (Diester: 23PL2) as about 4 acres which is only slightly smaller than Renner as reported by Shippee. His report also included a 'complex' of 4 stone vaults nearby. Feagins (Archaeological Survey: 1987) reported the main occupation of the site at closer to two acres. In the same report, Feagin's concluded the ceramic object from earlier Shippee findings, shows the Diester site as generally inhabited later than Renner, which was basically based on one radio carbon date of 76 BC.
The evidence from the Line Creek area is much more 'scattered' than that of Renner where the progress of investigation was able to progress at a more timely rate. The bulk of the work from Line Creek was at the result of a proposed sewage lagoon.
Despite the lack of dating, I believe the Line Creek and Trowbridge sites were inhabited the same time as Renner
By 1965, just between Renner and Line Creek, aside from the main village, nearly 25 'satellite' or smaller sites were recorded. It's fairly important to remember that modern development was advancing faster than archaeological recording could keep up and that at least twice the amount of 'satellite' sites where either never known.
Several questions come to mind. Such as, why have two main sites only about 5 miles apart at the same time for about the same 700 to 900 time frame?
Here's my answer to that. These were not 'villages' in the contemprary sence. These were 'farm's. Besides Renner and Line Creek, the other main known village was the Trowbridge site in Kansas. For whatever reason we may never understand, these farms were set up and lasted about 700 years. Each farm is about 5 miles from Renner, or likely a days walking distance.
Each farm had workers who lived nearby, thus the result of numerous findings of other 'sites'. Each work came to the farm to 'work for the man', so to speak. The 'man' was very important and his decendants would follow in his foot steps. The 'man' was likely a direct link to the Hopewell from southern Illinois and was an important chief.
All three farms existed through the same time frame with each farm actually encompassing an area of 2.5 miles, with the actual farm being anywhere from 4-6 acres.
We don't have enough evidence to know about the individual homes which were in the 2.5 mile or so radius of the farm. All we know is what is the evidence found at each farm (sites). Each individual who worked at the farm would have had their own pits, their own home and would have came to the farm for work and tradind for the things they needed and were paid for whatever services the man needed.
I propose it's the first example in American history of commercial enterprise.
The three villages would also answer the question of population. If you don't have a wife, there's one at the next village.
The reasoning behind even having a farm is the direct influence of the Hopewell wishes to expand and the drive to continue that for 700 to 900 years was directly from trading.
To continue for that length of time, I belive the actual population of each farm would have about 20 at any given time.
There is also the non-direct Hopewell influence in which there were others here who 'married in' or were out.
Just based on the evidence I have, let's assume each farm had 12 satellite 'homesteads' near the sites, based on the the findings of an average recorded number of 12 sites between Renner and Line Creek. The average recorded satellite site was about 1/4 acres. With the Elizabeth formula, each satellite site would have maybe lasted 30 years at best.
At any given year each site would have had 4 individuals 'on site', with 12 workers living nearby who worked at the farm. At minimum, these numbers could support a farm for 800 years.
One piece of evidence missing is that this appears to be a commercial enterprise and we don't know why, other than it did work. We don't know who traded for what and even why the enterprise even worked.
It's only slightly plausable that between the three villages, that 60 people continued a way of life for over 800 years without intervention from trading.
Either way, it all stopped around 800 AD, where the Hopewellian Interaction Sphere ended from east to west.
I believe two events likely happened.
1) There was a period of cooler temperatures which may have prohibited trading.
2) There was a general failure in the 'home base' in either Ohio or Illinois for some reason in which the needed communication and trading was gone around 800 AD.
I don't believe the weather was any different than it is now. They would have had the same droughts, the same cold winters and the same hot summers.
I believe the Late Woodland (Hopewell) period can't be correctly defined as some kind of ending. I believe the Renner Site had Hopewell influence through trading, but was otherwise in a constant state of transition, or adapting.
unication with the Ohio and Illinois Hopewell failed. By now, there were the ealy Missippians which became an influence.
The last members of Renner, Trowbridge and Diester, simply banded together and mixed in with the newer crowd and moved on and adapted.
Using and adjusted date of occupation of 786 years, which is the minimum known ocuppational period based we have, I've come up with the following:
The total population/ deaths. 3.524
Average individuals per year. 4.48 (of those 5 individuals, 3 had to be women)
One mound burial every- 7.1 years
One death/ live birth every- 81.4 days
A storage pit was dug every- 98 days (about 4 per year which averages to one pit dug per person per year- or 25.32 during their life)
Projectile points manufactured 29 per year (or 6 per person per year)
Avg. Proj. points in a life: 198
Average age of life: 30.7
One new mound bult every 39.3 years (that means only one of each death was placed in a burial mound)
Average time of the person in charge: 14.7 years.
My study provides evidence the Renner Site was more like a farm where a leader was likely in charge between the ages of 16 to 30, or about 14 years. Despite evidence that some individuals lived well into their 50's, the 'adults in charge' were in the 16-30 range. I would imagine those who lived beyond the age of 30, were not only fortunate, but likely chieftens, advisors or otherwise were most likely buried in the mounds.
In our times, you are an adult between the ages of 18 and 21. If you were 20 in 50 AD, you were already middle age. If our moden health care system was in place 2,000 years ago, you could qualify for social security by the age of 25. In 50 AD, you were considered an adult by the age of puberty or about 14.
Let's say your a young boy of 14 and we'll call him Bob. You just buried your dad or leader in a mound and suddendly became in charge. To us, that seems overwhelming, but to him that was expected and likely something he prepared for all his life.
During Bob's life time (31 years), he'll see 138 births and bury 138 people. He will have buried 4-5 members of the village in one mound during his life. Like the Egyptians, his mound may have been built while he was alive.
Evidence suggests only one person in thirty was properly buried. Who knows what happened to the rest. Some died as infants and since that was an accepted act of nature, they were buried in pits. Other's may have been buried else where or put someplace like the historic native American's did.
At the age of 14, Bob had a major task. He had to continue trading; had to feed everybody; had to be as knowledgeable as we expect 25 year olds to be today.
There was no medicine to speak of, or dentists or surgeons or hospitals. There was tooth aches, accidents with broken limbs and cancer isn't an invention of modern times. It's flat amazing that only four people per year continued a way of life that would last nearly 800 years.
Even after all the evidence I've written above, I still can't see how this was possible. The one thing we do know is that it did happen and was possible.
Bone analysis shows many teeth marks from rats and rodents or pets.
In our modern flash back in time, the Renner Site 2,000 years ago had to be about as disgusting as one could imagine.
BACK IN TIME
Let's pretend we have a time machine where we suddenly find ourselves in 200 AD. We are invisible as we walk through the Renner Site.
We would immediately have to cover our face from the smell. Once our eyes quit watering, we would see the village.
THIS IS AN ON GOING ARTICLE.......I UPDATE IT WHEN I CAN...STAY TUNED....