As an archaeologist I am often asked, 'what is the coolest thing you ever found'. Actually the question is probably the one I am most frequently asked - followed closely by 'how do you know where to dig?' and 'how do you know it is an artifact?'
It is a tough question to answer. I have found plenty of cool artifacts, including the ivory nose pin from the Uyak Site on the furthest left in the photo. That one was cool because I was cleaning up someone else's square and they had missed it in a corner because they had not kept their walls straight. I almost found the pictured maskette from Karluk, but got moved out of the square and it was the first thing the new excavator turned up. I've also found painted box panels, stone lamps, 7200 year-old microblade cores (I'm sort of partial to microblade cores), and the usual chipped stone points, knives, slate lances etc - all sorts of stuff.
But if pressed I have to admit that I am most proud of all the houses that I have found. I think the 850 year-old house foundation from Uganik Island pictured above is the coolest thing I ever found. But it is a tough call because I have found some pretty cool houses. I think I picked this one because it was the best photo of one of the coolest houses I ever found.
I like to excavate houses because they tell you so much more about the people who lived in them than does one artifact. In the house above you can see the box hearth surrounded by fire-cracked rock cobbles. The cobbles were heated in the fire to conserve fuel while cooking and drying fish. You can also see the tunnel to the sideroom where people slept over 800 years ago. Note the raised step that kept the cold air out. I also know that the house is one of the first houses ever built on Kodiak that had a sideroom. I guess my point is that that house tells a story while all an artifact can ever do is help illustrate the story. Patrick