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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This One is a House

Incised pebble - there is a face and clothing etched on the pebble if you look closely

Today we finished uncovering the second structure we started at our current site.  The first one looked like some sort of processing feature, but this one is clearly a house.  While we have not excavated the floor it looks like it has a single hearth in the middle, a bench along the back wall, and 2 siderooms.  The tunnels to the raised siderooms are quite complicated with a ‘double step’ up to get into them.  One of the siderooms even had a bench. The house does not look like a winter house because it lacks built up walls and storage features, but it is clearly well-built.  It is completely different from the first structure that we excavated at the site.

The house does not appear to have been occupied very long.  The midden out front is relatively thin, and the house floor is also extremely thin.  So thin that we removed a lot of it during excavation while trying to carefully uncover it.  There were no sod roofs over the main room or siderooms and so in many places the floor was right on the surface – and choked with salmonberry roots.

I think people were living here in late fall.  That’s when the river would have been full of spawning salmon, duck are migrating through, and the seals would have been out front chasing the fish.  The midden out front contains cod, salmon and seal bones.  The midden is also full of cockles, and locals tell me they do not eat these until the weather turns cold.

Dating the house is more complicated.  We did date another house at the site to around AD 1500 and the styles of the artifacts we have found so far fit that date.  We found an incised pebble an artifact type that only turns up in sites between about AD 1400 and AD 1550.  However, we also found a blue bead, a scraper made from thick bottle glass and a piece of window glass.  Right now I think the house does date to about AD 1500 and that the historic glass represent a later site visit during the early Russian Era.  We certainly have not found enough historic material to make me think the site is historic.

Anyway – now it’s on to excavate the remaining house floor.  Maybe we will find some more artifacts to help us narrow down the date of occupation.  In any case, next fall we will radiocarbon date the charcoal from the hearth and get a ‘definitive’ answer.  The artifacts will also help us get an idea of what people were doing in the various parts of the house.  I am sure we will find some surprises!  Patrick

Completed house - the main room is on the lower left and side rooms on either side of the crew

A panoramic view of the entire structure

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