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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

One BIG Pile of Rock, Rain, and Bayonets

It is week two of Community Archaeology and all continues to go well. We have not found lots and lots of artifacts, but the ones we have found support our interpretation of the site as a temporary hunting camp. I am very happy that we have found a different 'type' of site. If we had wanted to find lots and lots of cool artifacts we could have always excavated an Alutiiq winter village. But the artifacts we are finding are telling a cool story about a whole different aspect of the Alutiiq seasonal round that had hereto not been known about - the Alutiiq Hunting camp. And if we had excavated another Alutiiq winter village while we would be finding cool artifacts we really would not be learning anything new.

All the artifacts we have found continue to be mostly hunting tools - Very few flakes or tool manufacturing debris and no ulus or netsinkers (tools associated with fishing). It does not look like the people at the site were making tools or fishing much. And this is surprising given the proximity of the site to the mouth of a productive salmon stream at nearby Salonie Creek. My best guess is that they were visiting the site to hunt seals, and that they did not spend a lot of time at the site. Basically I think they brought finished tools to the site, sharpened and refurbished tools while they waited for seals to show up, and then killed seals that they took them back to a base camp - perhaps to the nearby Salonie Mound site that we excavated a few years ago.

One of the big mysteries that we still have not figured out is a HUGE pile of rocks associated with the 5000 year old occupation. It obviously took a lot of work to create, those are some huge rocks, but what is it? My best guess at the moment is a meat cache. I remember when I worked in Baffin Island in the Canadian East Arctic that the local Inuit would create enormous piles of rock over cached walrus meat to keep Polar Bears from stealing the meat (I also remember seeing the polar bears still getting to the meat). Perhaps this is what we have found?

Photos: Tamara with a ground slate bayonet base used for hunting sea mammals that she found on the floor of a temporary structure. Second photo is of Carmin with a red chert flake - her first artifact. Third photo is of Tamara digging in the rain. Finally the last 2 photos are of the mysterious rock pile.

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