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Saturday, May 25, 2013

More from Old Harbor

View on the way to work yesterday
The last 2 days we have had some good weather here in Old Harbor.  Yesterday was a brilliant sunny day while today it may not have been sunny but at least it did not rain.

The highlight yesterday was taking out the red ochre floor of the 6000 year-old house.  We used ¼ inch screen to find all the tiny flakes, and found that in the back of the structure the inhabitants had been doing a lot of tool re-sharpening.  We even found tiny re-sharpening flakes of the same material as the knife we found in front of the house.  Sugar quartz tools are rare enough on Kodiak that it is a good bet someone re-sharpened that very knife in the back of the house.  We also found more pieces of whetstone inside.  I bet all the pieces fit together.  In the next few days we hope to open up more of the house.  Perhaps we will find the fireplace.

Today we returned to the site we started at earlier in the week.  We almost completely finished with all the features we had started.  We did finish with the little temporary camp where we found all the brightly colored cherts.  We found 2 expedient hearths in the center of the activity area.  It really looks like it was simply a temporary campsite.  Perhaps just a fire that people sat around while on the move to somewhere else.

In our big block at that site we excavated the charcoal gravel feature.  It was not a house with a flat floor and walls.  But seems to have been some sort of smoke processing feature.  It had a sod-covered roof and we did find the old postholes for the wood supports that held up the roof.  The gravel in the feature was brought up from the beach and probably heated in the fire to maintain heat for drying some sort of meat hanging inside.  We found very few artifacts associated with this feature, but did find a nice chert lance of a style typically found in very old Alutiiq sites.  This confirms that the 7200 year-old date we got for the feature (from charcoal we recovered last year) is probably correct.

This is exciting because it confirms that Alutiiq people have been processing food for long-term storage for a very long time.  This may well be the oldest such processing feature ever found on the archipelago (click here for a write up about another such feature we uncovered last summer).  Alutiiq people at that time obviously were not living day to day on what they could catch or gather at the moment.  They also processed some food to save for the lean times when the gathering and catching was not so good.  Patrick

Chase and Sam map the temporary camp feature

Danielle shows off the chert lance that she found

Danielle and a small pit that had been filled with charcoal stained gravel

Chase and the 7000 year-old smoke processing feature - the 2 squares in the middle are old test pits (the smaller one from the 1990s and the one on the right from last year)

Excavating the smoke-processing feature

Uncovering the red ochre floor

Chase taking break


Leslie Leyland Fields said...

Patrick----really amazing photos!! The landscapes---the clouds, light, snow .... stunning. And the smoke processing area---fascinating. Thanks for posting your work here. Love to follow it!!

Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

Leslie, I am glad you like the archaeology posts, and I plan on posting more in the near future. Today we opened up more of the 6000 year old house in the rain. Dismal weather but exciting archaeology. Patrick