Yesterday Rick & Charlotta, the last remaining archaeologists in Quinhagak, closed the last lid of the last container of artefacts, left them in a huge stack (of 52 coolers & boxes to be precise) awaiting shipping to Aberdeen and the post-ex lab, got in the plane and left the village for this year.
Good bye Quinhagak A toast to a successful season
Rick, Charlotta & Véro give a tour of the site as it was before closing for the season – to be opened up again in 2015.
Rick, Charlotta, Véro
After yesterday’s marathon of backfilling, we are nearing the end of the field season here at Nunallaq.
Many of the team have already left, the few who remain will be gone soon, too.
There is a definite chill in the air in the mornings and evenings – we will leave the good and hospitable folks of Quinaghak to the coming autumn and winter, and hope the coming storms don’t do to much damage.
For the non-archaeologists of our readers, backfilling is the process of taking the dirt that you have excavated out and putting it back into the squares that you’ve excavated. Although this seems like a bizarre way to end a season of digging, it is essential for preservation of the site, particularly at a coastal site such as Nunalleq, with higher sea levels, coastal erosion and winter storms. These are the essential steps to surviving backfill!
Obtain all required equipment, such as tarpaulins, shovels and buckets. This first item was found to be lacking this year and a hasty trip to the hardware store for tarp acquisition was required… twice.
Have a Yup’ik crew of super heroes provided by Qanirtuuq Corporation. Roy ‘site Dad’ Mark and the Soda Crew as they were affectionally known were integral to finishing backfill in one day and we simply could not have done it without them. They not only provided their muscle but also a healthy dose of Beavis and Butthead laughter and four six-packs of various sodas, a much needed sugar injection for tired backfillers.
Enhance break-time snacks. In addition to the sodas we also brought thirteen single packets of Oreos to site. Along with lunch and other snacks these featured prominently in the day’s diet.
Keep up morale and maintain tempo with good music. This also helps to rein in sanity which after a few hours of bucket filling can go slightly astray. Today this meant a battle for musical dominance with three i-Pods blasting music across the site.
Proper personal preparation. It is important when out in the elements in Alaska to be prepared for all eventualities. This can include, horizontal rain, blinding sun and clouds of biting insects… sometimes all in one day. Thankfully today Nature was good to us and provided a lovely sunny day and clouds of non-biting insects. However, if one is not properly prepared improvisation must occur such as string suspenders to keep up loose trousers and braided rope belts to hold waterproofs in place.
Listen to your fearless leader. He will guide you in this epic final task of the field season.
Shout for your burly Lithuanian when help is required. He will be willing to relieve the physical burden from two women single handedly. This comes in especially handy when energy is waning just before lunch.
Always be in possession of a cheery disposition. It will serve you well and when tempers are short a spoonful of sugar (soda/Oreo) will help the medicine go down.
Be aware that there are times where relaxing is appropriate.
Always have a healthy attitude towards being ridiculous.
Photos by Jessica Pepe
Celeste & Ella
We had two reporters, Lisa & Erik, with us for a few days at the excavation and the show and tell. This is their article on Nunalleq in the Alaska Dispatch News
The artefact of the day is an ulu (women’s knife) found by Anna – in the southwest part of our block, in a newly revealed house floor that what hiding under what we think might be an old wall. It’s not just any ulu – it’s an ulu with a ivory palraiyuk handle! This is our second palraiyuk ulu handle, a wooden one was found by Ella last year. It looks like this ulu has been intentionally broken. Ethnographic sources talk about custom of breaking personal object’s when a person has died, so maybe this suggests the ulu’s owner was deceased.