Friday, July 30, 2010

Artifacts from Penguq

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Digging on this part of the Alaska Peninsula was very different from digging on Kodiak. Many of the artifacts we found were not things you would normally find on Kodiak, so it was very exciting for us. The part of the site we excavated belongs to what archaeologists call the Norton Tradition which lasted from about 3000-1000 years ago along the Bering Sea Coast of Alaska, including Bristol Bay. The tiny netsinkers (photo of Ryan top right), pottery (bottom left photo), and tiny arrow points (bottom right photo) are all typical of Norton sites. Ground stone lamps like the one Jill found (top left) are found across Kodiak, the Aleutians, and the Bering Strait region throughout prehistory. This one is the only one we found in our excavations at Penguq. In the middle left photo I am holding a chipped stone point and on the right Ann Marie is holding a chipped stone lance. It is interesting for us to see the difference between artifacts on Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula at sites of the same age. For instance, while there was pottery at Penguq 1500 years ago, pottery was not used on Kodiak until 1000 years ago even though there is plenty of evidence of interaction between the two areas. Netsinkers on Kodiak are also much larger. People from Kodiak speak the same language as people from the Alaska Peninsula though, which means they were probably in close contact in the past.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grilled Fruit



Being a relatively new owner of a grill, I’ve been trying to grill new things over the last year. Today I cam across recipes for grilling fruit and was intrigued. Tonight we grilled bananas. It was a very quick and easy desert and it was definitely yummy. I sliced the bananas in half, sprinkled sugar and cinnamon on them and then added pieces of chocolate. I put them on the grill on a piece of tin foil and let them cook for about 5 min. I’m sure I will be making these again soon. Here is a link to a list of grilled fruit recipes, hopefully I’ll be able to try more of them this summer:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gathering Firewood Photos




Gathering Fire Wood with the Skiff

A few days ago Ryan, John, and Katelyn and I took my parents skiff out to get firewood in Kalsin Bay. I had never gotten firewood using the skiff before and I had always imagined it would be a pain. It turns out it is super easy! We went out to Elephant Island, found two good logs and landed the skiff on the beach right below them. Ryan chainsawed them up and John, Katelyn, and I rolled them down the beach and loaded them in the skiff. When we got back, John backed his truck right down to the water and we lifted the rounds straight from the skiff into the truck. With four people it took no time. I am totally sold on getting wood with the skiff now. I think one of the reasons it is so easy is that you are moving the wood down the beach to your boat when you cut it, instead of up the beach to a truck.
I will add some photos when the internet is a little faster...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Visitors to Penguq

The swampy tundra of the Alaska Peninsula may have felt inhospitable to us, but bears, moose, caribou, wolves, sandhill cranes, and many other birds call this place home. At about the end of our first week there we had our first bruin visitor to our camp. We had an electric fence around our camp, but we were working so close to it that we didn't think it was necessary to turn the fence on during the day. When we came back for lunch one day, Catherine found that our latrine bucket had been knocked over and there were bear prints all around it. A few minutes later we noticed that a part of the electric fence had been pushed up. The bear had walked right up to our camp while we were working nearby! We had probably scared it off when we came back for lunch, even though we didn't see it. We kept the fence on after that! That evening just before we went to bed, Catherine nearly bumped into the bear on her way to the outhouse! We all went out yelling at the bear (and taking photos) while Mark shot two crackers at it and Patrick threw rocks. These didn't quite have the effect we hoped on the poor little bear, but he did eventually lumber into the bushes where he bedded down for the night. We saw his little prints around the river for two days after and then he seemed to disappear. Shortly after that at night just after we had gone to bed, we heard splashing in the river. The first time only Mary heard it and the second time several of us heard it. It sounded just as you would expect a bear fishing in the river to sound like. I even heard it grunt a few times and I heard a "whoof." It sounded like a bear to me, but it could have been a wolf I suppose. I didn't think I would feel so afraid hearing something like that, but when you're in your tent alone, can't see anything, and don't know if anyone else it awake, it's a bit disconcerting.

Throughout our four weeks we saw a few bears off in the distance in the tundra. We also saw two lone caribou wandering around. There were a plethora of wolf, bear, and moose tracks along the river including fresh moose tracks right near our camp one morning. We never caught a glimpse of a wolf although Patrick may have hear them howling in the night once. Mary, Catherine, and I got up at 6am one morning with the telescope to look for wolves but didn't have any luck. It was an amazing morning though with clear views of the mountains. The day that our resupply plane arrived we noticed a sow and two cubs on the tundra near our camp - although not too close. We never saw them after that and figured they had gone on their way. A couple of nights later we had a beautiful view of Mt. Chiginagak and several of us were snapping away with our cameras. It wasn't until I downloaded the photos at home that I noticed the sow and cubs are in the foreground of all my photos of the mountain! It is pretty funny that none of us noticed the bears, we were all so excited about seeing the volcano.

We had a resupply plane scheduled for the last week of the excavation. The resupply brought some new food as well as Ryan, Catherine's husband Andrew, and my cousin Ann Marie to replace Mary to had to return home for a family wedding. The end of the third week of our expedition was a perfect time for some fresh blood and food. Unfortunately the day the plane was supposed to come we had nasty weather and the flight had to be postponed until the next day. It was a bit demoralizing, but we all brightened up the next morning when the plane arrived at 10am! Bringing new people out to help us finish up the excavations and back fill was definitely a good call on Patrick's part. Without Andrew, Ryan, and Ann Marie's hard work we would have been VERY tired and sore. I could get used to having my husband come in the field with me!

We also had two BIA archaeologists visit the site during the last week to see how our excavations were going. They were very impressed with how much dirt we had moved and it was exciting for us to see some new people.

The BIA archaeologists visit Penguq.
Ryan backfilling with Mt. Chiginagak in the background.
Me at 6am going to look for wolves.
Mark shooting a cracker at a curious little bear.
Big bear track meets big wolf track.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Escape from Penguq

I returned last Tuesday from four weeks at an archaeological dig on the Alaska Peninsula. The site was located just south of Pilot Point on the King Salmon River. I had spent three summers in Egegik before and expected a relatively mild summer with many sunny days and just a few storms this time - but I was wrong! The weather was never really horrendous, but it was generally cool, gray, drizzly and occasionally we had some serious wind. Mosquitos were another story. They were pretty bad when we first got there. I think they did get better later in our stay, or maybe we just got used to them! We often had to sit around in our bug nets and occasionally I even excavated in mine.

The site we were excavating is called Penguq, which means "hill" in both Alutiiq and Yupik. Penguq is really one of the only hills in the area. The surrounding tundra is extremely wet, and as we found out, very difficult to walk on. I went on three hikes while I was there. Once we walked south along the river to look for a cabin on the USGS map. We never found it and after seeing how swampy it was out there we decided the cabin must have been placed incorrectly on the map. Another time we crossed the river in a raft and hiked to a small ridge with some "tall" cottonwoods. The view from the top of the trees was awesome - it was amazing what you could see from just 15 feet in the air! After climbing the trees we set out to hike to another hill, but as the rain and wind picked up, half of us decided we'd had enough exploring and headed back to Penguq. The other intrepid hikers made it to the other hill and explored a nice grove of cottonwoods. My last "hike" was to "Penguq 2," a small hill near our site. There were some nice meadows on the top of the hill, but some sandhill cranes scared the heck out of us in thick brush on the top of it! I didn't expect to run into sandhill cranes up there. All of these adventures involved lots of mosquitos and slogging through very wet, squishy tundra, and a few falls. After all of that we joked about trying to escape from Penguq, because it seemed to be impossible!

Despite the mosquitos, the weather, and the difficult hiking, things never really seemed that bad at Penguq. I think the main reason I never got too down was that we had a wood stove in our cook tent. No matter how wet and cold I was getting while we worked or tried to hike, I knew I could get warm and dry my clothes over the fire. The vegetation also greened-up quite a bit while we were there, the mosquitos seemed to get better, and the river got warmer. It wasn't until I saw the lush green valleys and long gravel beaches on the west side of Kodiak Island that I realized how much I missed home and how different Penguq is from anywhere else I had spent a lot of time. We really were on a little isolated piece of land in the middle of a mosquito-infested swamp. As we banked around Spruce Cape to land in Kodiak, I got a little choked up. I hadn't realized how happy I would be to come home! I actually felt a little silly until everyone else told me they were so happy they felt like crying too.

Catherine and I, leaving for Penguq on June 23, happy and clean!
Patrick, me, and Mark, happy to be heading home to Kodiak after a long day of waiting out bad weather at Penguq on July 20
A shot of the mosquitos in our cook tent on day 1
Washing dishes in the King Salmon River on a particularly chilly day
An aerial view of Penguq, the swamp, our camp, and our excavations