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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Late Prehistoric Multi-room House

End of day 3 and late prehistoric house
When I last posted 24 hours ago I was unsure of the age of the house we have been excavating.  It lacked roof sods and and had sharply cut walls just like a late prehistoric house, but we were finding artifacts in it that were clearly older than a thousand years.  Then yesterday morning I noticed that there is a sideroom depression on the surface back behind the house in the area we did not excavate (where the girl in red is standing in the photo below).  So the house is a multiroom house afterall, and that means it is probably on the order of 300 years and is not over a thousand years old.

It now looks like we are excavating a late prehistoric 'fish camp' that was built on top of an older 2 to 3 thousand year old camp.  The artifacts from the 2 occupations are mixed up on the floor of the house and on the surface of the ground just outside.  Neither occupation was particularly intense and that is why the layer of debris that they left behind is relatively thin and also why the site vegetation was not intense (well fertilized).  If we had not found the house foundation I do not think we would have recognized the late prehistoric occupation.  I probably would have lumped the two together and guessed its age as a couple of thousand years old.

Yesterday inside the house we found ulus and unfinished ulus on one side of the hearth and rocks and charcoal all around the hearth.  It looks like sods were thrown on the hearth to create smoke and damp the fire so that it would burn longer and better dry fish that were probably hanging from the ceiling.  The structure has low walls of stacked sods that were dug out of the house depression when they built the house.

Today we will wrap up the house excavation and clear off the layer of 4000 year old weathered ash that cap a far older occupation at the site.  We know this because that is where we found charcoal deeply buried beneath the distinctive ash layer in the test pit we dug last fall.  The late prehistoric occupation on the top was completely unexpected!


Jesse with a BIG ulu found on the floor next to the hearth

Crew and house depression after excavation

The inhabitants dumped firecracked rock from the hearth just outside the doorway

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