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The Littlest Archeologists

September 1, 2018
During a brief visit to the school a few weeks ago, our stellar volunteer Meta introduced us to  some of the teachers. After explaining what the project was all about, the 4th and 5h grade teachers asked us to teach their classes about the Nunalleq Project. Of course, we were very excited to have this opportunity!
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We talked about what archaeologists do, and why we do it. The kids already knew that we dig up old things from the past, so that we can keep them safe for the people from the village today and in the future.
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Now, if we want to save wooden objects for a long time, we need to treat it with a slimy, gloopy liquid called PEG. The best way to tell the difference between PEG and water is to touch it, so of course that’s what we did!
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Everyone also had a chance to handle some real wood from the site, and several kids even discovered stick dolls in the pile! We can’t wait for them to come help us out at the site in a few years!
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As archaeologists, listening to and learning from Yup’ik people today can help us a lot when we are trying to understand a site. For example: Elders have often been able to tell us what an artifact was used for when we were completely clueless!
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After everyone had had a chance to look at some stick dolls, we talked about what these little figures might have been used for. Together, we decided they may have been made for or by children in the sod house, and so we all had a go at making our own stick dolls.
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.Just like the dolls from the site, many of the kids’ dolls had faces on both sides, or upside down.
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As archaeologists, we can gather a lot of information from where an object was found. By mapping our dolls, we could see that most were found together in rooms, but also in tunnels. We discussed whether this changed anything about our original thoughts on the use of the dolls.

 

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One thing that makes stickdolls really special, is that they aren’t found anywhere else: they are unique to Nunalleq. And the kids from Quinhagak are in a great position to help us learn about these little carvings. They know what it’s like to be a Yup’ik child better than anyone! They all understood why it’s important for them to learn from their Elders and keep their culture alive. (And maybe, in a few decades, they could be the ones helping archaeologists identify new finds!)

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