Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Final conclusions, backfilling, and future research at the Amak Site

John volunteering to help backfill - THANK YOU John!!

Jill's lamp fragment

Our second excavation where we left it - an Early Kachemak pit dug into an Ocean Bay house depression???

Backfilling the second excavation - giving Patrick some attitude

Two hours later the pile of dirt has disappeared!
We had two main excavation blocks this year. In the first, we concluded that there was a very ephemeral and probably brief Early Kachemak (4000-3000 yr BP) componenet, a substantial Ocean Bay II occupation (5500-4000 BP), and very little intact Ocean Bay I deposits (7500-5500 BP). We uncovered a portion of an OB II living surface - perhaps the floor of a tent, and a tiny corner of a more substantial structure, also probably OB II. We found almost exclusively ground slate points in this excavation which we think indicates a hunting site. We could also see that there was a lot of dirt-moving going on in OB II times, but we are not sure why.

We also found a large rock pile for which we have a three competing explanations: meat cache, wind break, and hunting blind. I like the first two the best, since the rock pile seems to far from the edge of the hill to be useful as a hunting blind.

In the second excavation we first uncovered a small Early Kachemak structure, indicating that perhaps the EK occupation was more substantial than we first thought. It seemed too small to be a house and is similar to fish smoking structures from other sites. This doesn't appear to be for smoking fish though (no netsinkers) so maybe it was for processing meat. As we dug into the walls, we started to find another black, floor-looking surface. We believe that this is an older Ocean Bay house underneath, that is, the EK structure was dug into an old house depression from OB times. From what we've uncovered of this OB house, it looks rather large with built-up walls. This could be related to all the digging that went on elsewhere at the site - people dug out the soil beneath the house, tossed it a few meters away, and dug up sods from somewhere nearby to build their walls. Jill also found a lamp fragment today, the first "household" artifact we've found. Could this mean that the Amak Site was, at least at some point, a residential site (rather than just a hunting camp)? We have still been finding an unusual amount of ground slate points here too, which still indicates hunting.

While we have learned some interesting and important things about the Amak Site, we still have a lot of questions. Questions that can only be answered by more digging! Today we made the decision to stop digging in our second excavation, cover it with a tarp, and finish it next year. The excavating was becoming very complicated with a pit dug into a house and we didn't want to have to finish it in a hurry and backfill it, not fully understanding the stratigraphy.

Next year we hope to uncover more of the OB houses/living surfaces we found this year as well as more intact OB I deposits. Hopefully we will be able to figure out why OB II people were moving so much dirt! And after digging these two big excavations and then putting all the dirt back in the holes, I have an appreciation for the modern convenience of stainless steel shovels and wheelbarrows. Image moving all that dirt with a sharpened whale rib and a grass basket!

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