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An Engineer’s day at Nunalleq

July 14, 2015

Plenty of work at the site today (see panorama looking north above). Most of the group was excavating and screening material from the east side of the site (to the right in the photo) while a small group was uncovering an area at the northeast corner (under the white tarp). This area is believed to be behind the house- think of it like your backyard or garage. It was full of items needing attention and material to save because they might need them for the next project.

This hollow in the “backyard” would provide an area to work sheltered from the stormy weather that generally comes out of the south/southwest. We found several bentwood bowls, a piece of a canoe gunnel, net gage, spool, large sea mammal bones, a fossil mammoth ivory harpoon socket, an ivory toggle, pieces of shafts, and many stone pieces. The exciting aspect of the stone pieces is that they appeared to be a number of preform ulu blades at several stages of completion. One was nearly complete and had a hone sitting directly on top of it allowing us to visualise a project underway that was set aside and never finished.

middle photo

Rick removing the wooden bowl

The most thrilling find for me was the discovery of the wooden bowl shown in the picture to the right. We had uncovered it the day before, but its rim and base were firmly embedded in the ice. After waiting patiently (more or less), we were able to remove the upside down rim and bowl and examine their form. To our great surprise we found that the top of the rim was decorated with inlaid wood plugs the size of almonds and spaced at 10 cm. We can only imagine its former beauty but can easily see the mastery of the artisan that envisioned and created it. It had a hole in the bottom, which looks like a drain. Mice or other small rodents had chewed off the black paint along the edges of the bowl –nothing is wasted here in the north. The bowl was cracked because it was resting on a large scapula and one of the bone’s ridges had fractured the edge. Was this outside in the shop waiting for some repair work, or was it thrown out as part of the destruction of the attack? The story is incomplete but further exploration may help us find the answers.

While this work was going on outside the house, inside the house, walls and material above the floor continued to be removed. We were excited by the find of a walrus skull and prior to its removal had visions of carved tusks and other elaborate detail. Unfortunately this was only a portion of the skull in a debris deposit rather than an intentionally placed object. Although we were disappointed by the walrus skull we were pleased with many other finds. Some of these items included an exquisitely small nephrite drill (think of drilling 1 mm or smaller holes with a stone tool), a large ivory bead, a bone harpoon base and a 1.5 cm wooden repair patch for a foul weather jacket.

bottom photo

The east portion of the house under excavation and some local visitors looking at artifacts that were just uncovered

The weather was so nice we had a number of visitors coming to the site to observe our work.

Just in case you might think it’s all work and no play, to celebrate the end of the week and warm temperatures, many of us went for a swim (and wash) in the local swimming hole. We enjoyed visits by some curious children and made plans with one of them to join us at the dig on Monday. Looking forward to a day of rest and getting back to the exploration on Monday.

John R.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Marjorie permalink
    July 14, 2015 08:04

    Intriguing finds.What next?
    I like it that there are all the different authors in this blog. Every voice with its own perspective. Thank you for letting us in on the daily developments and giving us non archeologists such a beautiful armchair experience.
    The photos are outstanding!

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