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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Community Archaeology - End of week one

Our biggest find of the week - the rest of the house foundation that we started last year
On Friday we finished uncovering the 300 year-old foundation set into the top of the site.  It is the back half of the house we excavated last year (click here to read post).  The house had a tiny little raised sideroom.  A tunnel with a step connected the sideroom to the main room of the house.

What is interesting about the house is that it represents a different 'type' of house typical of Kodiak's late prehistoric period.  In their winter settlements the Alutiiq built large 'winter' houses with numerous siderooms and internal features like roasting and storage pits.  Multiple families would live in these houses - each family with its own sideroom.  The house we just finished excavating seems to be the type of house that one Alutiiq family would build at their fish camp.  It is much smaller and less elaborate with no internal features other than a hearth.

Around the Kodiak Archipelago we typically find no more than 2 or 3 of the 'fish camp' style houses at any one site and they are usually found in places that would be unsuitable for year-round settlement - at places where the Alutiiq would have focused on seasonal resources like late summer salmon, spring cod, or pupping sea lions.  'Winter' houses are often part of large villages and are found at protected places more suited to winter settlement.

On Friday we also excavated into the oldest layers of the site at the bottom of last year's excavation block.  It is really mixed up at the bottom with many intersecting living surfaces, numerous large post holes, and the occupants also seem to have churned up the layers moving dirt and sods around the site.  There are many chunks of charcoal mixed into these layers and I am wondering if the occupants were covering their hearths with sods and dirt to extend burning times? I do know that ancient Alutiiq peoples also used sods to build the walls and roofs of their houses and to hold down the edges of their tents.  We will need to excavate some more to determine exactly what they were doing in the lowest levels of the Kashevaroff site.

Another interesting pattern is that there is relatively little chipped stone in the lowest levels of the site.  Mostly all we find are ground slate bayonets and flensing knife fragments.  In the younger layers we already excavated and that date to somewhere around 2 to 5 thousand years ago, we found much more in the way of chipped stone tools and associated waste products.  Generally on Kodiak it is the other way around - the older sites contain more chipped stone and the younger ones have more ground slate.

Finally, the coolest artifact from the week is Gabe's lamp.  He found it in the lowest layers of the site so it is on the order of 5 or 6 thousand years old (we have not done any radiocarbon dating at the site yet). I think the lamp is interesting because it indicates they needed light at the site.  In summertime it is pretty much light all the time so perhaps the lamp indicates they visited the site later in fall?  Or, alternatively, they were living in dark houses that, so far, we have not found.   Patrick

Close up of the sideroom - it's not very big!

Back half of the house foundation and sideroom with Leslie for scale

Gabe with his 5 to 6 thousand year-old lamp

Ariel with her 'toy' bayonet

House comparison - 'winter' house from last summer's excavation at Old Harbor on left and this summer's 'fish' camp house on right.  The lower portion was excavated last year.

Last summer's house from the Old Harbor excavation - MUCH bigger rooms and many more internal features

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