Saturday, August 14, 2010
Deep In Midden
On Friday the Community Archaeology dig ended and to the best of my knowledge (and subjective memory) it is the first year ever that we did not miss a day due to weather. That said, yesterday it rained and misted pretty hard all day, but our field-hardened crew persevered and even thrived in the wet conditions. Everyone wanted to get to the bottom of their respective middens, and the midden is very deep at Mitksqaaq Angayuk!
Actually it is kind of amazing how deep it is in places. Back when we were excavating at the adjacent Zaimka Mound I always looked down over the Miktsqaaq Angayuk Mound and wondered where they quarried the sods to build the multiroom houses. I assumed that the whole mound was built up from weathered stacked sods. At Settlement Point, a late prehistoric site I excavated on Afognak, the houses were built on the beach with stacked sods quarried from the hillside behind it. So I always sort of assumed that the Miktsqaaq Angayuk mound was built up the same way. However, at Zaimka Mound we never found any evidence for sod quarrying. And now I know why - the Miktsqaaq Angayuk Mound is all midden! It is an enormous mound of trash - 3000 years worth of clam and fish dinners.
The mound is so big and there are so little evidence of sods and house building in the mound that I am wondering if Kachemak era peoples even built houses at Mitksqaaq Angayuk. There is a large Kachemak village around the corner at the other end of the beach and perhaps they lived there and did their fish processing at Miktsqaaq Angayuk? Despite the large multiroom houses, the Late Prehistoric Koniag occupation appears to have been brief and to have added very little material to the mound.
Molly and I also realized that together the adjacent Zaimka and Miktsqaaq Angayuk mounds seem to represent over 7000 years of pretty much continuous occupation. That is amazing! The only other place on the archipelago that even comes close to this is the mouth of the Karluk River or perhaps at Litnik. Hopefully, Molly will have food remains to analyze from the last 3000 years of that time period. So far all of the middens have been VERY different from each other. Some have been full of cod and shell, others full of halibut and salmon with little cod, and it will be interesting to tease out whether the differences are temporal or seasonal related. Did the people's diet and habits change with time or does the differences between the middens reflect different seasonal occupations? I think that we will find that it is a little bit of both. Molly has a lot of work to do, and I can't wait to hear the results of her analysis!
Photos: Top - Emily gets to the bottom of the 'late Prehistoric midden'. It was raining so hard that many of my photos were too blury to even bother with saving. In the second photo Jill and Kevin pick a screen. We screened all the excavated dirt and picked through it to gather all the artifacts, fish and animal bones, and shell. In the rain, it got a little mucky and hard to see stuff! Third photo is of Leslie near the bottom of the 'HP6 midden'. This is the 'house' that turned out to be a deep midden. Fourth photo is of Leslie and Jill excavating midden, and finally the bottom photo is of Leslie with another of her harpoons. We found some pretty cool artifacts in the middens. The shells in the midden raised the soil Ph and helped preserve bone tools.