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Friday, July 25, 2014

Community Archaeology 2014 - We start to Excavate

After more than 2 days of removing last year's back dirt and the sod and Katmai ash from this year's new units we finally start to dig
Every year we start the dig by busting out the sods and removing the Katmai ash over the area we plan on excavating.  This generally does not take more than a day or so.  But this year we opened up a huge new area (6 by 6 meters), AND had to remove all of the dirt we dug in 2013 from last year's excavation block (also 6 by 6 meters).  Last year we did not get down to the oldest material at the bottom of the site.  So on the last day we covered where we got to with tarps and backfilled all of our dirt back on top.

I wish we had not put so much of the dirt back into the hole.  It was a LOT of work getting it all out!  And we did not start digging in earnest until Wednesday afternoon.  Actually, we did a lot of digging in the first few days but did not start digging and FINDING until day 3.

We have already uncovered the back half of the circa 300 year-old house that we partially excavated last year.  It has a tunnel to a tiny sideroom with a bench.  The sideroom is raised above the level of the main room and, in contrast to the thatched main room, seems to have had a dirt and sod covered roof.  It would have been a cozy and warm room.

In the 5 to 6 thousand year old levels at the bottom of last year's excavation block we are finding a mish mash of old living surfaces stained black and red with charcoal and red ochre.  It looks like Alutiiq people camped here repeatedly and set up their tents in slightly different places each year.  Based on the sharp bayonet spear tips we have been finding it looks like they were hunting sea mammals.  At the nearby Outlet Site on Buskin Lake the bayonets are often battered around the edges from use spearing fish and striking the rocks on the bottom of the lake/river.  None of the bayonets we've found so far have exhibited this characteristic battering.  So hunting and not fishing is what I am thinking.


At the end of last year we almost completely re filled our excavation block

We had to remove last year's back dirt bucket by bucket

Directly under the 1912 Katmai ash in the new excavation block Ariel found this cow jaw bone - evidence of the early 20th century cattle industry at the head of Womens Bay

In this photo the new units are ready to go (foreground) but we still have to completely uncover the tarps that protect the un excavated layers from last year

Our backdirt pile is already HUGE

Almost done!

Finally we start to excavate - Gabe and Matt at work in the new units

Leslie excavates the tunnel to the side room of the circa 300 year-old house it is slightly raised with a step up in the tunnel from the main room

Alex, Natalie and Marnie hard at work uncovering charcoal and red ochre stained living surfaces in the 5 -6000 year old deposits that were under the tarps - this is where we finished last year.

Marnie with a bayonet base - note the parallel notches down the sides

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