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Old dogs can learn new tricks…

August 5, 2015

…maybe not those found in the site itself, but those old dogs like me excavating at Nunalleq certainly can.

In my day-to-day life, I am a professional consultant archaeologist and undertake archaeological surveys for clients. I go out onto their property to look for sites so that they can be either be avoided by a planned development or excavated if the development can’t be adjusted to miss the site. The artifacts at the sites I find are usually just small pieces of rock that were chipped away when someone was making a tool, like an arrowhead or scraper. More often than not the site is avoided and so I don’t get many opportunities to excavate sites. For these reasons, working at Nunalleq is a privilege and a dream come true for me.

IMG_4714I like to think that I am an experienced archaeologist, but when I am at Nunalleq I am reminded that you’re never too old or too experienced to learn something new. Through my two seasons at Nunalleq, I have gained different skills and have been taught new techniques for excavation. Prior to working at Nunalleq, I had never had the opportunity to excavate delicate organic materials, like woven baskets, wooden artifacts, and leather. Seeing what has been recovered from Nunalleq gives me a better understanding of what artifacts may be missing from the sites I find where there is no permafrost to preserve them. Before Nunalleq, I had never practiced “single context” archaeology before or worked on a site with such complicated stratigraphy alongside an international team of experts in different fields, including local people. All of these experiences have caused me to think critically about what I do in my work as a consultant and I am a better archaeologist for them.

All this is to say, if you’ve never held a trowel before or you’ve worn your trowel down to a nub, you should consider participating in an excavation like that at Nunalleq (if not at Nunalleq itself). You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn and you’ll meet some interesting people in the process.


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