Friday, July 24, 2009
House appears beneath the 1912 Katmai ash
We finally got all the Katmai ash (from the 1912 volcanic eruption) off of the multiroom house. We have opened up a HUGE area and the ash had blown into the house pit - so we had A LOT of ash to remove. Once the ash was removed the house features are quite clear. The main room never had roof sods so the hearth and sub floor pits are all exposed right on the surface. Note box hearth in the middle of the house, doorway pointing out to the right, and sideroom connected by a tunnel between the crew and the main room. The main room measures around 3 by 4 meters. I took these photos from the top of a nearby tree.
Yesterday, after I took these photos, we started to excavate in the midden outside the house and we found excellent faunal preservation. We found out what the Alutiiq people who lived inside the house had eaten and thrown away. We found mostly cod bones, some seal, clams, blue mussel shells, chitons, and lots of sea urchin. I only saw one salmon vertebrae. Sea urchins produce roe in March/April and cod come inshore in the late spring. So what we've found so far looks like the remains of a late winter/spring feast.
Last night Mark and I also re-evaluated our guess as to when the house was occupied. I had previously guessed mid to late 19th century based upon one ceramic sherd of what I call 'gaudy ware' and the fact that the house had completely collapsed prior to the 1912 Katmai volcanic eruption. Last night we referred to a report on the Castle Hill Excavation of the Russian Fort in Sitka put out by the State Historic Preservation Office and noted that the most common ceramic we have been finding peaked in popularity around 1815. We also found one drawn and cut blue bead which is also typical of the early Russian period. I also realized that we have found none of the sponge stamped light green and red ceramics typical of the late Russian and Early American period. So I am tentatively going to say that the house was probably occupied in the early 19th century. However, we've hardly begun our excavation and this conclusion is based on a tiny artifact sample. So take it for what it is - a very preliminary guess! Patrick