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Friday, February 17, 2012

Re Visiting the Data

Christy and Molly map the rock pile.

Rock pile superimposed on top of postholes set into till. Rocks are blue and postholes pink.

Molly poses with the excavated rock pile.

Final view of the excavation showing all of the postholes set into the glacial till below the site.

View of the excavation as a whole - looking towards the distant sea.

Archaeology is all about figuring out what happened at the site you excavate and writing stories, and sometimes you discover clues long after you thought you had all the details. Such is the case with the rock pile we excavated last summer at the Amak Site (see posts from last August).
At the time we thought it was just a HUGE pile of rocks and not much else. We decided it might have been a hunting blind or a cover for a meat cache.

When we excavated the feature we did not find any obvious postholes, associated charcoal & artifacts, or obvious living surfaces. It did seem to have an 'empty' area in the middle that had rocks beneath it. So we just mapped and described it and chalked it up as a mystery.

Recently when I was looking back at photos of the excavation, I noticed that there was a ring of postholes set into the glacial till at the bottom of site directly below where the rock pile had been. I immediately wondered if they could they be related. So I took the map of the rock pile and superimposed it on the map of the postholes at the bottom of the site. They look like they match up pretty well. However, it still could also be a coincidence and the postholes might be related to an entirely different feature. In support of the 'unrelated' hypothesis we did not notice any postholes while we were excavating the rock pile (they are usually pretty obvious).

Nonetheless, I do believe that they are related, and I think the posts support the idea that the rock pile was an elaborate meat cache. What follows is my latest story made to fit the facts.

The hollow area in the middle is where the meat was and when they removed the meat they tumbled the rocks to the outside. I think they set poles over the rocks so that bears could not tumble the rocks away and get at the meat. They could also have used the poles as some sort of meat drying rack. Anyway, that's my story for now.

Now I need to come up with some additional evidence that confirms or disproves my latest story. And this may not happen. The rock pile might forever be a possible 'food cache'. However, I like to think that someday someone else will find a similar feature with a few more clues, and that eventually we will figure out what the rock pile represented.



Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

Here is an email I received from a fellow archaeologist. He comes up with a good scenario to explain the rocks. Patrick

Good to revisit the data--your today blog. Yes, the assemblage does have something of an EK look.
Now, let's revisit Patrick.

I see 43 rx, so let's say there are 50. But many are small 10 pounders, lookes like only one will go 70 lb. The lot then would weigh about 2000 lbs. You can weigh some of your yard stones to check my estimate. A 1400 lb Kodiak bear would laugh at that.

Try for a deadfall. The feature measures about 3 m in any direction, or 2.5 m without post holes. A suitable size for a bear. In the "smash" type deadfall there is a log platform, often weighted with rocks. The animal enters the trap, trips the trigger, and down it comes upon his body. There is a post at one end that holds up the platform. There is a ring of posts or stakes around the trap to ensure that the quarry enters it from the right direction so the trap will be effective when it drops.

You have something like such a ring of posts. There is one wide opening, but in front of it there was a large post. This could have been the post that held up the weighted platform and to which the trigger attached. Besides directing how the animal enters the trap, the ring of posts would help stabilize this unwieldy contraption and guide it to a straight drop. 2000 pounds of stone might be shoved aside by a big burly beastly brown bruin, but besides the weight of the rx there would be 200 lbs or so in platform logs and any soil and sod added to disguise the trap. Moreover, if the platform remained intact, the trapee could not simply claw off individual rocks. That should do it and do in the beast. Actually, I do not think your trap caught anything, it is too undisturbed. DWC

jenny said...

interesting feature! it sure is a mystery sometimes.. the stuff people built. lol.
were there any soil chemistry, such as phosphates, done on the site?