Monday, May 16, 2011

The mind-numbing parts of archaeology

I've been feeling a bit uninspired to write over the last couple of weeks. I can't wait to be in the field. It's been a long school year and I am ready to get outside. Because it's almost summer, I've also been working especially long hours to make some major progress on the faunal analysis for my dissertation. That basically consists of sorting and counting tiny fragments of shell and bone and then identifying them. It's extremely boring, to say the least. And it hurts my back. We won't get into the ergonomic disaster that is the "lab" they assign archaeology grad students to, but we'll just say it's not comfortable. So, I go to school, do my usual boring grad school stuff for about 12 hours, relax for a little while when I get home, sleep, and repeat six days a week. It doesn't leave much time for fun and excitement, which is what I would prefer to write about here. I suppose this is life though and if this blog is about my life, sometimes it's just going to have to be boring.

I've been analyzing the Early Kachemak (3400 years old) bulk samples of midden I collected from Mitks'qaaq Angayuk last summer in Kodiak. I put the samples through 1/2", 1/4", and 1/8" nested screens. I then separate the shell from the bone (mostly fish), identify and count the shell fragments (that's the mind-numbing but easy part) and then I try to identify as much of the fish as I can. In the top photo I'm sorting the 1/8" midden fraction. If you look at each white tray clockwise from left to right, they contain unidentified shell, chiton, sea urchin, fish, mussel, and pebbles. In the middle is the unsorted midden. The second photo is of fish bones waiting to be identified (these are mostly cod). It is boring, but it does feel good to be getting it done.

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