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Artefact of the day August 10

August 12, 2017

The artefact of the day was a little ivory figurine found by Rick in a wall made up from redeposited house floor (and sod). It is a little puffin we think, with wood insets decorating the wings.

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The vote was decided by all the shrieks it’s cuteness caused when it came out of the dirt.

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Although it’s face kind of looks like Jack Skellington from Nightmare before Christmas.

 

Five weeks and counting

August 12, 2017

I am a bit behind on the updates of the dig. We are now in our last week of the excavation, and it is frantic. A lot has happened the last two weeks. We are quite far down by now and we think that’s the reason our puddles have become a standing feature at the site (maybe because we’re close to the natural clay, we think). We have to start every day by bailing.

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yup

Our old house turned out to be much deeper than we thought when we planned the season. We have now removed the 4th occupation level, and we have not seen the end of it yet (although we know it is close, as we are coming down on natural clay in more and more places. We have over 300 contexts (different events in the history of the site). More than double of what we were expecting when we started. It is exciting though – we are learning so much about pre-contact Yup’ik architecture, and the house is very well built.

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Excited archaeologists finding a nice feature

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Planning, planning, planning…

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The site a week or so ago

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Antler marking a wall

We’ve also had some wildlife encounters at the site. Two moose walking across the mudflats and into the sea.

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Moose at a distance

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A different kind of wildlife

Véro left us a bit over a week ago, after having collected her maggots and pupas. They were not as far developed as she hoped, probably due to the cold weather we had the last week before she left.

Jonathan’s research has also developed – into a deep deep pit. Every morning for weeks Jonathan has bailed his test pits and scraped the newly thawed dirt down to permafrost. His efforts seems to have payed off – he has possibly found a site – considerably older than our current one judging from the depth down to the first cultural layers. Needless to say Jonathan is very happy. We have taken some material for C14 dating, so the future will tell…

At the end of fourth week we also had to say goodbye to Sven, Christie, and Lucy.

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End of four weeks group picture

Sven was playing with his drone his last few days at site, and took some great overview pictures of the site.

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Véro’s last day on site was wet…

Our brave volunteers Chris and Rufus, Steve and Patti arrived the same day Véro left.

Since then they have experienced amazing archaeology, salmon fest, thunderstorm, sun, and bugs, bugs, bugs.

Since then Chris and Rufus has already left, but they were a great addition to our crew. Rufus – only nine years, but a proficient digger already.

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Recently contemporary Yup’ik artist Drew Michael and filmmaker Joshua Branstetter also joined our crew. Josh is working on a short documentary about the project and the community, and Drew is hopefully finding some inspiration for a new art project. (He did find a mask today, and was exhilarated 🙂 ).

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Drew scrutinizing a bentwood bowl

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Archaeology as it happens…

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Just another day at the site…

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Bugs, bugs, bugs. Someone might be wearing a plant macro fossil processing net on his head, but hey – whatever works

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A massacre has taken place…

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Elder John Smith visiting the site just as Alice found a kayak model…

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End of five weeks group picture (also called ‘The Quinhagak Quartet’

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Yes it is natural! (At the bottom of this huge pit

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Out trusty total station, and our trusty total station operator – always hard at work

So…. Only a few days left to dig, 353 contexts removed, 938 special artefacts registered, 266 samples taken… Tomorrow we will move dirt!

Charlotta

Artefact(s) of the day August 9

August 10, 2017

Today was a day of bentwood vessels, and we had so many we cannot chose – together they are the artefact category of the day. Two vessels were found at the bottom of a large pit that has been dug straight into the natural (sterile, not effected by human activity) soil. The vessels make us think this is a storage pit – maybe even one dug far into the permafrost to keep foodstuff ‘refrigerated’. Elders have told us of such pits, and the bottom was covered with a layer of wood chips – insulation perhaps?

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Charlotta by her pit

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The first bowl found in the pit

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The second bowl of the pit – with a ownership mark on the bottom

Another vessel was found by Anna just on top of a house floor of a side room in the north-west corner of the trench. Close to the bowl was a hafted uluaq, and also several bones and a caribou tooth. This vessel also had residues of food preserved inside, among them fish bones. Another caribou tooth was also found inside the bowl. The food residues have been kept as a sample, so we might be able to analyse it in the lab to see what it once was.

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The bowl with food residue inside and an uluaq next too it

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The uluaq up close

Two very large bentwood vessel bottoms, the largest one only half, were also uncovered by Alice in a floor just below a board walk. It looked like these vessel bottoms might have been placed on the surface intentionally – maybe to cover a wet spot (this part of the trench is often water logged), or maybe somehow reinforcing the board walk.

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Bentwood vessel bottoms by boardwalk

The bucket bottoms have been used as cutting boards after the bowls broke. We can be sure of this due to all the hundreds of cutting marks in the wood – like any well used cutting board in your kitchen.

Bug haven (for bugs) at Nunalleq

August 10, 2017

Today was our worst (best -if you’re a bug) yet. Slightly unbearable at times – we were all screaming inside while working, but the little beasts had a feast. Here are some shots from today to give you an idea…

 

Bugs, bugs, bugs…

 

Rufus and Chris working hard in their bug-infested square

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Patti showing the latest in Nunalleq fashion

Artefact of the day 7 August

August 8, 2017

The artefact of the day was excavated by Steve. It’s a small bentwood vessel, intact with bottom and side seam. Next to it was an ivory gaming piece, as you can see on the picture. The finds came from a side room house floor.

Nunalleq masks

August 6, 2017

This season we have found twice as many whole full-size masks as we had in the collection before – covering all the seasons. As this is the earliest occupation we have excavated we think we can detect a change in practice when it comes to disposal of masks. The later house, the one that was eventually attacked and burned, stood for about three generations – with different occupation phases telling the story of the people living there through this time. From this time period we have two whole full size masks, and a third one that was broken in half, but we recovered both pieces and could reassemble it. These masks were found outside the house – in a refuse pit and outside the outer wall.

The masks from this year – the earlier house, that could have been occupied two or three generations before the later house was then erected on the same spot – have all been found inside the house. They are not found in house floor layers, but in more liminal areas of the house, but they also seem to bee connected to structural elements of the house – walls, pits, post holes… We’re starting to think maybe they had some kind of protective purpose – a thought that is strengthened by the large wooden head that Véro found at the base of a wall.

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Large wooden doll? head found by Véro at the base of a wall

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The first full size mask found. A seal-transformation mask found by Charlotta and Sandra in debris covering a house floor.

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The second mask was found by Véro at the bottom of a pit. It may represent and owl-transformation.

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The same day Anna found a third mask. This seal mask had been used as a post mold to support a structural post.

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How the seal mask was found, used as packing in the post hole.

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The fourth mask, a quite scary looking seal transformation mask. It was found by Charlotta in a leveling layer just at the corner of a wall.

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The fifth mask, a stylised human face wearing labrets, was found by Rick. It was set in between floor boards in a board walk in the passage way of an entrance to the house. 

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The mask in situ between floor boards.

Interestingly spatially the masks have been placed in connection to all the different rooms in the house. They also cover the whole occupation period, every generation of occupation seem to have at least one mask representing it. We believe the house was well protected.

Charlotta

Arefact of the Day August 4th

August 5, 2017

The artefact of the Day was found by Rufus – our youngest team member yet – on his first day on site. It was in a house floor he was digging with Rick, in between boards. It’s an ivory owl toggle (possibly even an owl-seal), the first owl we’ve found this year (it made Charlotta very happy). It is beautifully done, as all Nunalleq artefacts. Rufus said he thought it looked like a grape when he saw it in the ground.

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