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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Community Archaeology Underway

After 3 days of digging Community Archaeology 2011 is well underway. This year we are excavating at the Amak Site near the Salonie Creek Rifle Range. The site is almost a mile from the current shoreline, but 3,000 years ago Womens Bay extended a lot further inland and the site was situated right above the beach. During the last 14 years of Community Archaeology the Alutiiq Museum has been examining the Alutiiq Seasonal round in the Womens Bay area through time. Among other types, we have excavated late Fall fish camps up on Buskin Lake, Spring Cod camps on the outer coast, Winter villages, and Summer camps at the head of Womens Bay. We have excavated sites as old as from the 6th millennium BC and as recent as the 19th century AD. This year we hoped to learn what the Alutiiq were doing at the extreme head of Womens Bay 3-7000 years ago. We also hope to find one of the oldest sites on the archipelago (knock on wood here).

And so far so good. We know from a test pit and our excavation so far that the site has been occupied at least 3 times - once in the Early Kachemak period between about 3-4,000 years ago, in Ocean Bay II times around 5,000 years ago, and finally there appears to have been a super early occupation around 7,000 or so years ago. For the last 3 days we have been excavating the Early Kachemak component. What's cool is that unlike the contemporary and nearby site at Bruhn Point the Alutiiq do not appear to have used the Amak Site as a fish camp at that time. We have found none of ulus for cutting up fish or the netsinkers used to catch fish - both of which we found so many of at the Bruhn Point Site.

3,000 years ago the Amak Site appears to have been used sparingly as a temporary camp, and the occupants did not leave much behind for us to find. But we have found a surprising number of complete hunting tools - a sideblade, a chipped stone endblade, a pumice abrader and whetstone, a couple of scrapers - and very little in the way of flakes and other chipped stone debris that would have been created if people were making tools at the site. My initial thought is that the Alutiiq people at the site were bringing completed tools to the site from somewhere else and hunting seals. Perhaps they sharpened their tools as they waited for a seal to appear. The seals would have been up there in late summer chasing salmon up Salonie Creek.

Photos: Top photo - the team removes the last of the 1912 Katmai ash. The ash rested on 3000 years of grey silt tsunami deposits left behind by repeated tsunami inundations up the bay. Second photo is of Drew with a complete sideblade that he found. A sideblade would have been inset into the side of a bone lance and would have acted much like a modern broadhead on an arrow to create an extensive wound channel on a hunted animal. Third photo is of a red chert endblade that would have been set into the tip of a spear. Fourth and fifth photos are of the team digging down into the top layer of the site. The top layer represents all of the soil accumulation between the last major volcanic eruption and ash fall circa 3800 years ago and the 1912 Katmai eruption and deposition the thick layer of white ash seen in profile.

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