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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.


Culture Centre opening in the news

August 14, 2018

The Grand Opening of the Culture Centre on Saturday turned out truly grand. Here’s a report from the day in KYUK.

Attack on Nunalleq – the movie

August 12, 2018

This last week we have had a series of art workshops in the village to celebrate Yup’ik culture now and then – as part of the celebrations for the Culture Centre opening. One of them was a stop motion workshop run by Alice – telling the story of the attack on Nunalleq. We are very excited to share the movie with you :


Unpacking grass artefacts

August 12, 2018

At the Nunalleq Culture & Archaeology Center Rick and his team have been unpacking the crates of artefacts that arrived from the University of Aberdeen.

This week Julie was unpacking some grass artefacts. Basketry is very fragile and a good packaging had to prevent the objects from any movement during transport by absorbing vibrations while ensuring that they were tightly and still gently packed within the crate. It also had to allow easy handling for study, ensure long-term conservation, and had to look nice for display.

Designing this packaging was not an easy task so it was very rewarding to see that her mounts worked very well!


Julie opening a crate of grass artefacts at the Nunalleq Culture & Archaeology Center

Basketry fragment in its mount at the University of Aberdeen (left) and after travel at the Nunalleq Culture & Archaeology Center (right)

Grand Opening of the Nunalleq Culture and Archaeology Centre

August 10, 2018

Tomorrow is the Day with capital D. The Official opening of the Nunalleq Culture and Archaeology Centre. What excitement!!!

NunalleqCultureCentreOpening (1)

Around the Lab

August 6, 2018

While the field crew has been busy digging, a lot has been happening around the lab too. In addition to the usual cleaning of artefacts and placing wood artefacts in to the PEG treatment, we have caught glimpses of the wood cabinets being built by the Qanirtuuq Inc. carpenters for the Nunalleq Culture and Archaeology Center. These cabinets will house the artefacts. The carpenters have already moved one of them in to the Center and Rick has started to fill the drawers with some of the collection that arrived from Aberdeen.

The first artefact cabinet is moved in to the Center!

Rick, Anna, and Alice start filling the cabinet with artefacts that have just returned to Quinhagak from Aberdeen.

One of these drawers contains numerous stick dolls. To prevent them from rolling around and knocking in to each other, Kostja has been creating ‘beds’ for them, each one nestled in to a cavity cut in the ethafoam.

Stick dolls nestled in their bed of ethafoam.

I have also spent some time on the conservation treatment of the child’s bow made of baleen (Artefact of the Day on 13th of July), so that it will be clean, stable, and ready for display during the grand opening of the Center on the 11th of August. Baleen is quite a remarkable material. It is a flexible horn-like material made of keratin (which is what our hair and nails are made of) and grows in plates from the upper jaw of certain whale species, such as the humpback, blue, right, and sperm. Baleen can be softened in hot or boiling water in order to be worked and shaped in to an object. Think of it as an early type of plastic! The treatment of the bow began with gentle cleaning of the surface with a soft bristle brush and water to remove soil. In one section of the bow, layers of the baleen were unstable and delaminating. This area required stabilization with an adhesive. The adhesive was inserted in between the layers using a syringe.

Section of the baleen bow that is not stable and delaminating and requires consolidation.

Conserving the baleen bow.

Afterward, I placed a long weight (one I specially made from pebble-filled bags held together with cling film- sometimes you have to improvise) over the bow, so that it would apply sufficient pressure to the consolidated section and ensures the bow retains its proper shape while it slowly dries. Once the bow is dry, I will make a supportive mount for it to rest on. And now, it’s time to get the Center ready for its big day!


A long day at site…

August 5, 2018

Last full day at site. After 13 hours of digging we were back at camp at 10pm. Lots and lots of dirt was moved today. Many finds made. Almost there…

Doll painted with red ochre and carved details that suggest clothing, and half a mask. Both were found in a pit dug into natural – one of the last things excavated today.


Throwing board – the only one we have found with both finger pegs intact


Hafted uluaq