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Post-Excavation News

April 12, 2014

Now that the preparations for this summer’s field season are underway, and anticipation for all the new and wonderful things we will be finding this year at Nunalleq is growing, it is perhaps a good time to show you some of the post-excavation work that has been going on during the winter. This is a huge task, given the very large amounts of artefacts recovered and the special conservation needs of the various organic materials (like wood, bark, leather, basketry) as well as some inorganic materials (like ceramics). This year, we have been paying particular attention to the pottery collections, which have been a bit in the background of the project so far. They may seem less exciting than the spectacular wooden masks, dolls, harpoons, ulu blades and mats that have been the ‘poster items’ for Nunalleq. Yet, pottery is an incredible source of information about various aspects of people’s lives: for example, raw materials can tell us about landscape use and exchange, the size and shape of the vessels can provide indications about their function, as can analysis of the organic residues that often adhere to their walls, and the decoration can help us understand people’s identities and social affiliations. This is why I am so interested in the technologies and styles of the pottery from Nunalleq, which I will be studying for the next two years. Working with a well-contextualised, large assemblage from a prehistoric village like this one is a unique opportunity because there are so very few other examples from this part of Alaska.

But before we can proceed with the research, the pottery needs to be cleaned, catalogued and recorded. As we found out when we started opening the almost 80 16-liter boxes overflowing with bags of sherds, many need to be consolidated because they are extremely fragile after having spent several centuries buried in wet, permafrost conditions. The first step was to gather all the pottery stored in the coolers and fridges and beginning the cleaning process. We have a wonderful new lab dedicated to the Nunalleq project, which is where student volunteers have been helping with this huge task – and finding great stuff under all the mud and dirt! We will keep you posted on our progress. Keep checking the blog!



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