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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Initial Artifact Analysis

Today I finished checking the catalogue from the summer's excavation.  I looked at every artifact that we found and checked it against what we had called it in the catalogue.  There were lots of artifacts that I never saw in the field and it was very insightful to look over everything at once.  I put the same types of artifacts all together in their own boxes and it was very interesting to see them all together - to begin to see patterns and gather impressions.

Overall the collection looks a lot like last year's, and the types of artifacts still support our hypothesis that the site was a hunting camp.  But there were a few new types of tools and trends that I did not see in last year's collection.

First of all, I was surprised at how many 'piece esquilles' we found (also a lot of scrapers and utilized flakes).  I had not even noticed them during excavation and most of them were listed in the catalogue as 'flakes'.  Piece esquilles are basically stone wedges used to break open bone - presumably to get at the marrow and create bone slivers for tools.  They are distinguished by bi polar battering, and are quite distinctive once you get an eye for what they look like.  They indicate that people were probably breaking open bone at the site - an activity that fits right in with a sea mammal hunting camp.

Another interesting find was the number of 'non-functional' bayonets that we found.  These are bayonets that are too small, bent, or made of such poor quality slate that they could never have been intended to be functional (see fourth photo down).  I interpret them as toys.  Boys would have had to learn how to made bayonets for themselves and I imagine that they were probably doing just that while their elders were probably re-fashioning their own, totally functional bayonets at the same time.

Another new discovery and one that I believe is mostly associated with the smoke processing feature is the number of split cobble scrapers we found this year.  Last year we only found one or two but this year we found a great many more.  I think they might have needed the coarse edge of the greywacke cobbles to split seal skin during butchering.  Slate knives are very poor at doing this sort of thing.

I could not wait to get all the artifacts in bins because I was really looking forward to trying to re fit bayonet parts with each other.  Below is a tray with all the bayonets and flensing knife parts we found last year (on left) and all the ones we found this year on the right (and picture below that).  Last year we found 31 bayonets and this year we found 35.  But what's surprising is that I could not find many matches.  I'd say we excavated fully half of the main site area - so one would expect a lot more re matches than I found (exactly 2 and 3 if we count last year).  So what is going on?  Are the broken pieces getting left off site? Patrick

Last year's (on left) and this year's (on right) bayonets.

A really poor quality picture of all the bayonets and flensing knife parts that we found this year.

Toy bayonets?

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