We are breaking the silence with a greeting from California, more precisely San Francisco, where this years annual SAA (Society for American Archaeology) meeting/conference were held. The Alaska project had a session of it’s own at the conference – Human-Environment Interactions & Human Ecology in Western Alaska, and a large part of the team was represented, including Qanirtuuq Inc. by Lynn who flew all the way from Quinhagak to give her talk.
The project researchers were joined by Maanasa Raghavan who participated on a large study on the genetic prehistory of Alaska which included hair samples from Nunalleq. Rick gave an overview of the site and western alaskan archaeology, Kate spoke about dietary practices among Nunalleq’s human and canine inhabitants, Paul showed what plant remains can tell us about every day life at the site, Ana talked about the different pottery techniques used at Nunalleq, Véronique shared her discoveries of different activity areas based on bug remains, Charlotta discussed archaeology as Yup’ik heritage, and Lynn told us about archaeology and cultural preservation from the perspective of Quinhagak and the people local to the site. Overall it was a very interesting session, even for us who work on the project, and needless to say we had a great time in San Francisco.
Summer is coming closer, and that means so is the field season. Would you like to join us this summer?
You will find more information about the field season and how to apply here
Last year there were barely any snow in Quinhagak, and this year threatens to be the same. The school kids in Quinhagak miss it so much they made a video about it – and made it to the news. Merry Christmas for Quinhagak. I hope the kinds in Quinhagak will get a white Christmas
Summer 2014 was an exciting time for Nunalleq excavation’s public engagement and education team in Quinhagak. While Quinhagak itself was excited to receive their new principal Peggy Price, we too were excited to start working with her and the school. Without hesitation we were welcomed to visit classrooms run by the new 6th grade teacher Heather Vogwill, new 5th grade teacher Melanie Richmond, and the new high school science and math teacher Vincent Villella.
The outreach and education team was fortunate to have Scottish author Kathleen Jamie help lead two of the education outings at the school. We visited the 5th and 6th grade classrooms with a creative writing project in mind. Melia Knecht, with her curatorial expertise, brought with us a few of the artefacts recovered in this field season; an antler with carved caribou on it, a stone fishing lure, a harpoon point, a hafted ulu, an ivory seal amulet, and the head of an unusual doll (or figure). These artefacts were brought in to show students what is currently being found in excavation as well as to hopefully inspire some creative storytelling. The students were led to imagine what life was like 500 years ago in the village of Nunalleq. After some writing exercises and storytelling by our education team, some of the students continued on working on their stories. In the end (thanks to Heather Vogwill and her class) we were supplied with 14 original pieces of creative writing, accompanied by artwork, inspired by the artefacts. These stories were featured at the show-and-tell event for the excavation. I was very impressed and proud of the skill that all of the students showed in their work on these pieces. I have chosen one to feature on the blog here, due to her creative writing piece and her confidence to share an oral creative story in class.
Below is Marita Tunutmoak’s (6th Grade) story:
Five hundred years ago…
I was helping gather black berries for Eskimo ice cream. My parents told me to go with Chimaraq because he likes to bring grass baskets to the hill, he brought two of them, and I was half way there to finishing gathering black berries. I saw Evil Mr. jinxii then I said, “Chimaraq, tailuci, AMBII!” and when he held it I said, “Chowa,qaa?!” and Chimaraq said, “knaam” it was made of wood and we put it back and we brought an adult with us and when we came back, it was gone. After we went on the other side of the hill, there was a small door and I opened the small door Chimaraq said, “Nengqeralria, AMBII close it!” so I refused and I went in the door and I saw Evil Mr. Jinxii, alive and it said, “Kaithpait?!” so I said, “Waqaa J!” and I seen he had sharp teeth so I ran back to the village and Chimaraq was confused when he was running with me and we brought back berries and he said, “What’s the matter?” So I said, “I saw a little person with sharp teeth!” And when Evil Mr. Jinxii went to go on the berry house there was lesser berries, he got really mad, so he went to the village and said, “Who went to the black berry hill?” and me and my sister got scared. So my sisi went to go see who was that and she said, “Why?” Jinxii said, “its my berry house not yours!” so I said it was me, Nengqeralria. And jinxii took me. It was a week there was here holes 000 so I chose the middle every one was happy to see me again.
A few days later I was invited by Vincent Villella to speak to the high school math and science classes about science and technology in archaeology and of
Nunalleq. In one class, that had recently been learning about the scientific method, we chatted about how the scientific method is applied in archaeology and what ways scientists investigate our research questions on site and in the lab. Once again artefacts from the excavation joined me at the school, this time a bit of ancient Yup’ik technology: a stone ulu blade, arrow end blade and socket, a stone spear head, and a stone drill bit. I was glad to see that some students were interested in learning more, for I saw them at the show-and-tell event later that day.
This is just the beginning of archaeologists working with the students and staff of Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat. More collaborative projects will be developed in upcoming months for my return in Quinhagak January, February, and March of 2015.
Not only are we academics back in Aberdeen since a couple of weeks, we’re also just back from Istanbul. There, at the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) large yearly conference, several people from the Alaska team presented papers on Nunalleq. Charlotta spoke on community archaeology and Yup’ik heritage, Kate spoke on subsistence patterns based on what the isotopes from the human hair samples are telling us, Ellen, PhD student working with faunal material from the site and a familiar face at the excavations, spoke about her research on dog-diet and how it compares to human diet, and Thom, also a PhD-student working on residue analyses of pottery spoke about his results from the Nunalleq pottery (the pots were all used for marine mammals and fish storage/cooking). Several other members of the Alaska team were also present at the conference, Rick, Ana & Paul, our plant-machro postdoc who stars in a few weeks, but they were all presenting research from different projects.
We also had time to explore the ancient, vibrant and beautiful city of Istanbul and some of its historic sites, and sample some delicious Turkish food.
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