Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Year Two of Community Archaeology at the Amak Site

Jill, Patrick, and Andrea setting up the grid

Our crew of eight women (including me) and one man

Andrea and Caitlin excavating in Level 1

Ashleigh and the first ground slate point

Yesterday was the first day of the Alutiiq Museum's Community Archaeology excavation. We are digging at the Amak Site again this year . We dug here last year and were a bit boggled by what we found (read about it here and here). We were expecting to find a fish camp since the site is located near the mouth of a salmon stream. Instead of netsinkers, ulus, and other fishing tools, we found tons of ground slate points (also called bayonets). The Amak Site contained more ground slate bayonets (points) than any of us have ever seen in a single excavation. This collection of artifacts suggests it was a hunting site (probably seals who hang out near the mouth of the river eating salmon). There were also no substantial house structures which means it wasn’t a winter village – further supporting the hunting camp hypothesis.

Even though we felt like the artifact assemblage gave us a fairly clear picture of why people were there, we were still fairly confused by the stratigraphy. In our main excavation last year, the bulk of the deposits were from the Ocean Bay II time period (~5500-4000 years before present). These deposits were mostly mixed up sediment with bits of charcoal and artifacts. In one small corner of the excavation we found intact deposits of volcanic tephra that are older than 7000 years. Everywhere else in the excavation, Ocean Bay II people had dug up those tephras. They had dug down to glacial till and then deposited all that mixed up dirt all over the site. We could even see little chunks of those older tephras mixed in with layers containing artifacts that were only 5000 years old. We still aren’t sure why people dug down to glacial till and then deposited a bunch of sediment at the Amak Site. Often people would dig down to the glacial till to build their houses, and use the sod and dirt they had removed for the walls, but we haven’t really found much evidence of substantial structures at this site.

So, our goals this year are (1) to find more artifacts to see if our seal hunting hypothesis holds up and (2) to try to figure out why Ocean Bay II people moved so much dirt. We are hoping that in our excavation this year we will find more ground slate bayonets and that we will find some of those intact tephras older than 7000 years. If we find more features it might also help us confirm our hunting hypothesis or force us to consider an alternative explanation. There are a few more research goals this year that I will save for another post.

Yesterday we removed the sods for our new excavation and shoveled of the Katmai tephra from 1912. We also removed all the backdirt from the second small excavation we had started last year, but hadn’t quite finished. It was a long day of hard work, but with eight tough women (and Patrick), we got it done in time to quit a few minutes early!

Today we started digging in Level 1 (this was basically the ground surface between about 4000 years ago and the Katmai eruption) and found our first artifacts. The big find was Ashleigh’s bayonet fragment. I found a bayonet perform (the rough form of what would have eventually become a bayonet, had someone continued to work on it). There was also a hammerstone, a gaming ball, several red chert flakes, a red chert core, and a bit of ground slate. Tomorrow we should be finished with Level 1 by the end of the day.

No comments:

Post a Comment