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The Nunalleq Culture and Archaeology Center needs your help!

October 5, 2018

It is now close to two months since the grand opening of the Nunalleq Culture and Archaeology Center in Quinhagak. Those of you who have followed the project on the blog knows what treasures it holds – but to those of you new to the site; this is the largest collection of Yup’ik archaeological material in the world with over 60,000 artefacts – everything from precious amber jewelry and ivory artwork to anonymous wooden sticks. This Native owned and Native curated collection hosed in the Culture center run by the non-profit organisation Quinhagak Heritage Inc. In addition to being an archaeological repository and research facility, this is also a cultural education center, and museum, aiming to keep it’s door open to community members as well as visitors to the community. With your support we can make sure this happens!

Donate to the Centre by clicking the yellow button to the right of this post  Don't Delay: Offer More Value to Generate More Cash for ... or by following the link to the GoFundMe-campaign for the Culture Center.

By donating to Quinhagak Heritage Inc., you’ll help towards paying utility bills of the Center, build exhibit cases, purchase much-needed conservation lab supplies, support craft workshops and other cultural- and educational activities, and so forth.

Every dollar counts, any kind of support is welcomed – however small!


Warren Jones and Grace Hill cutting the ribbon to the Culture Center

Quyana – Thank you!

Nunalleq and Culture Centre on KYUK

September 6, 2018

Here a report nice report on Nunalleq by KYUK Publik Media



The Littlest Archeologists

September 1, 2018
During a brief visit to the school a few weeks ago, our stellar volunteer Meta introduced us to  some of the teachers. After explaining what the project was all about, the 4th and 5h grade teachers asked us to teach their classes about the Nunalleq Project. Of course, we were very excited to have this opportunity!
We talked about what archaeologists do, and why we do it. The kids already knew that we dig up old things from the past, so that we can keep them safe for the people from the village today and in the future.
Now, if we want to save wooden objects for a long time, we need to treat it with a slimy, gloopy liquid called PEG. The best way to tell the difference between PEG and water is to touch it, so of course that’s what we did!
Everyone also had a chance to handle some real wood from the site, and several kids even discovered stick dolls in the pile! We can’t wait for them to come help us out at the site in a few years!
As archaeologists, listening to and learning from Yup’ik people today can help us a lot when we are trying to understand a site. For example: Elders have often been able to tell us what an artifact was used for when we were completely clueless!
After everyone had had a chance to look at some stick dolls, we talked about what these little figures might have been used for. Together, we decided they may have been made for or by children in the sod house, and so we all had a go at making our own stick dolls.



.Just like the dolls from the site, many of the kids’ dolls had faces on both sides, or upside down.
As archaeologists, we can gather a lot of information from where an object was found. By mapping our dolls, we could see that most were found together in rooms, but also in tunnels. We discussed whether this changed anything about our original thoughts on the use of the dolls.


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One thing that makes stickdolls really special, is that they aren’t found anywhere else: they are unique to Nunalleq. And the kids from Quinhagak are in a great position to help us learn about these little carvings. They know what it’s like to be a Yup’ik child better than anyone! They all understood why it’s important for them to learn from their Elders and keep their culture alive. (And maybe, in a few decades, they could be the ones helping archaeologists identify new finds!)



Find of the Day August 23

August 24, 2018

The site was officially closed a few days ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to be discovered! The field crew has left us some nice surprises in some of the mixed bags, and today Lindsey brought in a find that amazed even Rick. He promptly went to the store to buy us all some pop to celebrate!

Stay tuned for some of our favourites!

Rick: Lindsey has been water screening bulk samples, taken in order to recover small fish bones and similar small faunal finds from house floors. This artifact came from one of those samples.  It is a hafted scalpel with a very sharp blade ground from green slate. One of these tools was collected by Edward Nelson for the Smithsonian in the 1870s. Nelson recorded that scalpels like this were used for installing labrets into the faces of their Yupik wearers. We have found a few scalpel blades before, but never a hafted one. The Nunalleq material continues to amaze!



This is how we do it

August 23, 2018

Although it’s been quiet on the blog, there’s been plenty going on in the newly opened Culture and Archaeology Centre. The collections room has already welcomed a number of visitors, both from the village and the nearby fishing camp.

Besides giving tours, we’re still working hard in the lab, trying to clean and treat and pack away the rest of the artifacts before closing the season officially. Here’s an update on what we’ve been doing!

Amanda has been working on the pottery, drying and packing up, identifying diagnostic pieces (and throwing out a lot of rocks, charcoal and mainly bark), and discovering a large number of decorated pieces- stay tuned for her post!


These sherds are slowly dried before being carefully packed up

Meanwhile, Lindsey is braving the rain to water the tundra: she’s wet-screening last year’s bulk samples.
Rick is unpacking artifacts in the collections room, while Elli, Meta and I (Lise) are washing and labelling wood objects and putting them in PEG (Polyethylene glycol) – a substance we use to treat the wood so it can be dried and stored safely.

We label each box so we can keep track of how long each object has been in PEG – the average piece will take about 30 days.


We use these carts to dry trays of artifacts after they come out of PEG

To keep us in the right mood for lab work, we’ve been playing a lot of music, including a fine selection of 90’s/early 2000’s boyband hits. Maybe that’s why our attempt at a crew picture came out like this…
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The Backfill Boys

We’ve got a few more exciting things to share soon, so make sure to check back in!

More reports on the Culture Centre

August 22, 2018

KYUK has published a longer piece on Nunalleq and the significance of the new Culture Centre – access it here.

A farewell to the site

August 16, 2018

Thursday last week we recorded the last elevations on site – the bottom of the house pits dug into natural and the original sod walls… On Sunday parts of the crew and a number of outside guests in town for the Culture Centre opening (16 people in total) just made it out of Quinhagak before the planes stopped flying for three days. A strong Bering Sea storm hit Quinhagak, the first autumn storm of the year. We finished the site just in time! The storm would have destroyed the site but for a bank of sandbags we had installed last year. As it was the block was overwashed and flooded with nearly a meter of sea water. A thick layer of beach sand was dumped into the site all the way back to the inland wall. If this had happened in the last weeks of excavations it would have brought our work to a standstill. Very lucky timing! At the same time it shows how very vulnerable the site is to the continuing erosion.