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Bonding at the Bonfire: My Last Dig Day

July 27, 2015
Rick celebrating the end of a productive excavation week

Rick celebrating the end of a productive excavation week

In the days leading up to the bonfire, the majority of my finds had been nautical in nature. It was these artifacts that inspired me to forgo making a spoon as my first carving and instead make something a little more ambitious… A small model kayak with a little hunter doll attached.

The kayak and it’s hunter

 Sitting outside the tent, as my knife rhythmically chipped away, I came to understand the people of Nunalleq in a different way. I took my scrappy looking piece of driftwood to the site and began carving during lunch. Through the act of carving, the artifacts I encountered transformed from inanimate objects loosely tied to a culture through stratigraphic maps to a living story of community and survival.


After dinner we packed up our gear and headed for the beach. The bonfire began as a way to wind down after a long and harsh workweek… However, after five rounds of s’mores we were all dancing around the flames. The sugar high eventually wore off and we settled down around the fire sharing stories and jokes. In the light of the late Alasakan evening, each one of us chipped away at bits of driftwood.
Even though my face was smeared with s’more residue and Usher was playing in the background, as I stared at the horizon, where the Bering Sea meets the endless sky; it was easy to imagine that the sense of community I felt around that blazing fire was no less than that of the people of Nunalleq – cooking and preparing tools for the days to come.

Mike hauling wood for the fire


IMG_6845-2My time here in Quinhagak is coming to a close and soon I will be back underneath the raging Texas sun, wishing I were back here. I can say, without a doubt, that I will never forget my first dig. From getting to interact with amazing academics from all archeological disciplines to excavating the most remarkable wooden mask, I am forever thankful to the local community and the University of Aberdeen for allowing me to participate in such an exceptional dig.

Bonfire crew

Bonfire crew


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