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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Finished with the old sites and on to the new

More digging in the rain - opening up another 4 square meters of the house

Today we finished up our excavations at the 2 very old sites that we’ve been digging at for the last week and a half.  At 6000 and 7200 years old they are both very old sites for Kodiak.  The site we are moving to for the next four weeks of the project at 400 years old is considerably younger.  Hopefully this means we will not have to dig down as deep to find the surfaces that people lived on.  Over the last 6000 years repeated volcanic ash falls and silt flowing downhill had deeply buried the older sites.  We are looking forward to excavating houses where we do not have to remove ½ a meter of ash before we get to the interesting stuff.

This afternoon when we walked over the new site we could see the house pits and their siderooms right on the surface.  Clear enough that we can map their outlines without even any excavation.  One drawback of the younger site is that the site vegetation is much more intense – it’s an elderberry, salmonberry, pushki, nettle jungle out there.  The soil is still enriched from people living out there – all the food scraps, midden etc.  It would be a great place for a garden.  We plan on using a chainsaw to clear it up so that we can map the houses and set out a grid.  Still removing the sods and all the roots so that we can excavate the houses will be a real chore.

Since I last reported we uncovered another 4 square meters of the 6000 year old house.  Catherine found a perfect chipped basalt lance in the back of the house and Chase found an ochre grinder metate just outside the doorway with the mano right next to it.  We also uncovered many more of the holes that had held the posts to hold up the roof.  It was a substantial structure.  It looks like it had an open front and was dug in at the back.  It looks to be about 3 meters deep and 4 meters across, but we still do not know for sure because we did not uncover the whole thing.  If we have time we hope to return and open another 5 square meters to catch the other side of the house.

At the 7200 year old house we discovered that the Alutiiq who built the smoke processing feature had intentionally filled in the lumpy bumpy ground around with sods to create a flat surface.  We also found some blades – an artifact type only found at the very oldest Alutiiq sites.  I suspect that seal hunting was the subsistence focus at both sites, and we certainly did see a number of seals just off shore during the day while we were digging.  I can’t wait to see what we find at the new site!  Patrick

All done at the 7200 year old smoke processing site

The ochre grinder complete with mano in front of the 6000 year old house

A happy Catherine with her basalt point

Close up of the basalt point

6000 year-old house after excavation - we still do not have the wall on the left side and a little at the back

The elderberry and salmonberry jungle at the new site

The crew and view from the new site where we will be excavating

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