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August 31, 2013

Rick in the lab packing his preciouses...A cooler packedThe excavation is over, and all that remains before leaving Quinhagak is to pick up the last pieces; organise and pack the artefacts, wood, soil and bio samples in coolers for shipment, go through the paper work, sort out the bulk samples, storage and maintenance of equipment, sorting the finescreened dirt for small faunals, Dirt bags on displayand screening excess bulk samplesdirtbags (those soil samples that are one to many due to uncertainty of different contexts while digging. It’s better to take too many than too few 🙂 ). As always when you’re in the field and don’t have time to go through all the paper work and register all the records every night there are sheets missing, contexts lacking description and drawings without captions… sorting out the paper recordsSorting fishesNow, while it’s all fresh in our memories, is the time to sort those issues out. Hard physical work wasn’t high up on anybody’s agenda after a month of digging and three days of backfilling, which made the trays of the fine screened material quite appealing to many a crew member. Lindsey and Jacqui sortingAndrius in search of fishSorting through a pile of matchwood wood chip by wood chip can even be quite therapeutic when your muscles are aching and your brain is so tired you have to think your train of thoughts step by step. And the reward is there! Plenty of fish vertebra and tiny fish jaws were hiding among the wood chips – proving all this work is worth while.

Promising ridgeEdouard testing the pitsSitting inside all day could not be borne by everyone however. In the evening Edouard and Charlotta grabbed their spades and went to test the most promising ridge a few hundred meters behind the village cemetery. When there it looked even more promising; dry high ground with an excellent view over the tundra – a very non-exciting holeor river and tundra at it would have been in the ancient times. The vegetation was less convincing though – lichens, moss, lingonberrys and Labrador tea (or wild rosemary), almost like a forest floor but without trees.

Post-test pit disappointment

Post-test pit disappointment

And when we put the spades in the ground the meagreness of the soil was confirmed. Under the thick turf layer there was nothing but sterile grey clay. no-site gpsingAfter eight test pits with the same results they had to give in to the facts and accept the disappointment of not having found a new site. Andrius, who they met on their way back on his quest to pick tundra tea, had the same result in the additional test pits he dug while harvesting tea. 14 test pits and all sterile. Disappointing, but at least we know.



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