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Grey skies over Nunalleq

July 10, 2018

This week we have reinforcement from 14 volunteers from the Sierra Club. Unfortunately they didn’t get the best introduction to Nunalleq archaeology, as the weather has turned. Wet and windy conditions make digging a little less appealing, but nonetheless we made good progress during the day, and spirits were high.


Screening under the storm clouds

We are making good progress, both in the attack layer in T-block, and in the old trench, where we are starting to see the original walls and some of the earliest house floors appearing. It will be exciting to see where this week takes us, but we do hope the weather improves 🙂


Wet, but happy, crew

Back in the Nunalleq Lab

July 10, 2018

I am delighted to have the opportunity to join the crew this year as the project’s on-site conservator and to oversee lab activities. Thanks to Amanda, Ellie, Kostja, and Georgia, we have the lab up and running in the Nunalleq Culture and Archaeology Center and have accomplished quite a lot during our first week. Our first goal was to tackle the back log of wet wooden artifacts from last year’s excavation season that were stored in refrigerators at the Center. After cleaning the wood artifacts, we immersed them in a solution containing the bulking agent polyethylene glycol (PEG). Over several weeks, the PEG will replace excess water in the wood and provide support to the cellular structure. Eventually, the wood artifacts will be taken out of the solution, excess PEG removed from the surface, and then allowed to dry.

The container ‘farm’ with numerous wood artifacts immersed in the PEG treatment.

At the same time, we have also started cleaning some of the freshly excavated finds that the field crew has been delivering to the lab at the end of each day. It really feels like Christmas each time we open the crate. As we unpack the crate, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to view all the finds from each day. In the coming weeks, we look forward to continuing our work in cleaning and stabilizing the finds, ensuring their preservation for the years to come.



Artefact of the Day July 7

July 8, 2018

The artefact of today is an artefact never seen before at Nunalleq. It is a bracelet of small clam shells, held together by a woven braid of grass. The braid was woven across the hinge of the shell, creating a fragile but striking ornament.


It was found by Hannah in a small house floor under a boardwalk in the northeast corner of our excavation block.

Artefact of the Day July 5

July 7, 2018

The artefact of the day on July 5 is a walrus tusk made out of wood. It is most likely a mask attachment, belonging to a large walrus spirit mask. It was found by Alice in a wall context of the oldest house, next to a post. We have found masks in similar locations in previous years, and the placement of them in liminal places, by posts and boardwalk, is probably significant.


In the same wall Alice also found a small mask fragment with a pronounced cheek. This is a fragment of a different mask, much smaller than the one that would have been adorned with the walrus tusk.


A first week at Nunalleq

July 7, 2018

We have been digging in Nunalleq for almost a week, and with the extension of the trench to the erosion edge we are digging in two different time periods at once – which is kind of mind boggling. The new trench, T-block, is in the very last moment of Nunalleq’s existence as a house, when it was attacked and burned, and in the eastern part of our excavation block, our old trench, we are exploring the very first occupation at the Nunalleq site. About 150 years separates the people on the top from the people at the bottom.


In the ‘old house’ we have made some nice finds of artwork in the small house floors that have been excavated so far.


Like this wooden doll with a head painted with red ocher, and a carving of a Palraiyuk, a mythical beast that once terrified kayakers in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Red ocher pigment still adheres to this creature’s eyes.


In the ‘new house’ we have found a cache of ground slate preforms, knives and points found on a housefloor at the Nunalleq site. The floor is stained with brightly colored ash from wood and sod burned when the house was destroyed by attackers from another village sometime around 1670, ending centuries of occupation at the site.

Nunalleq from the sky

July 6, 2018

Last week, Edouard was setting up and flying the drone and here are the first images and photogrammetry 3D models of the excavation and Quinhagak from the sky!

Nunalleq in 3D


Quinhagak sunset


more to come ….

Artefact of the Day, July 3

July 6, 2018

The artefact of the day on July 3d, and our first artefact of the day for the season was a small ivory fish. It was found by Charlotta in a house floor in top of a wall.


It is a fish lure made out if walrus ivory. Bits of red ocher pigment were inserted into the small holes on the side, some still intact. An additional insert, now missing, may have represented the dorsal fin.