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Friday, August 06, 2010

Historic or prehistoric houses?

Yesterday we started to excavate into the large multiroom houses at Miktsqaaq Angayuk. The big question is are they from the early Russian era like last year's house or are they late prehistoric (occupied just before the Russians arrived on Kodiak)? We really want them to be prehistoric so that Molly will have shellfish to study from each of the main eras at Cliff Point over the past 3,000 or so years.

So far so good - Yesterday we opened up HP6 and HP8 at the site. Both are much larger and deeper than the one we excavated last year, and Historic Alutiiq houses tend to be smaller than late prehistoric houses. In the fourth photo Emily and Jill remove the 1912 Katmai ash in our test in HP8. It was VERY thick - the ash blew in into the deep pit and filled it up. They found the floor and a hearth surrounded by banya roick immediately below the ash. So the house had a thatch roof and no roof sods. They also did not find any historic artifacts - no metal, russian ceramics, glass etc. But they did not find any prehistoric artifacts either. They did not find a single artifact! However, I take this as evidence that the house is likely prehistoric - historic houses are generally full of metal and glass while prehistoric houses often contain very few artifacts.

In HP6 Shelley, Marnie and Deb (see third photo) removed the Katmai ash but did not find a house floor immediately under the ash. They actually found a midden with excellent faunal preservation. So what does this mean? It means HP 6 is either not a house or it has been filled up with late prehistoric midden. The determining test will be whether or not we find a floor under the midden. If there is a floor under the midden Molly will be very happy because she will likely have late prehistoric midden to analyze - midden that was dumped into the collapsed house pit.

Other photos: Top photo is of the site yesterday morning - if you look closely you can see our excavations in the other houses on the mound. Second photo is Stuey with my fishing rod. Yesterday Zoya and the kiddos brought me lunch from Java Flats and Stuey took a liking to my fishing rod. We almost caught a dolly while he was helping me fish. On the way home Zoya stopped in at Mack's and got Stuey a rod of his own. Bottom photo is of Katie digging into the midden. The midden continues to go and go, but we still have not found a diagnostic artifact to give us and idea of how old it is.


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