Artifact Preservation


     In spite of the challenges of working at a wet site, the water was very beneficial, because it helped preserve bone and plant artifacts. First, it blocked oxygen from reaching the artifacts. Without oxygen, bacteria and other microbes that usually cause decay could not live. Second, the Bayou Jasmine artifacts probably stayed continually wet. Organic remains are preserved well only at sites that stay very dry or that stay very wet. Most sites get wet and then dry out many times each year. When moisture changes, the artifacts swell and shrink, and they become weaker and more fragile. The subsidence at Bayou Jasmine kept the artifacts always wet, so they did not break down.


     Prehistoric people made lots of things out of animals and plants. At most sites, these types of artifacts rot away quickly. At Bayou Jasmine, however, some of them lasted for thousands of years. Bayou Jasmine gives a glimpse of certain artifacts that once were common, but that archaeologists rarely see.


     Some of the most remarkable artifacts from the site were thin cords that people braided from plant fibers. The Indians may have used these to make fishing lines or to tie things together. Cords are not often found at archaeological sites in Louisiana.


     Other uncommon artifacts were bone fishhooks, bone projectile points and bone flutes. Bone artifacts do not often survive the passage of time. These “everyday” things may not seem important, but they

are very important to archaeologists. Bone artifacts show that the people who lived at the site did not waste their resources. They turned leftover bone into valuable hunting and fishing tools.

Many of the artifacts found at Bayou Jasmine would not have survived at other sites. Artifacts like the bone fishhook, bone projectile point and alligator tooth seen above are prone to decay when exposed to oxygen and the elements.


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