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It is week two of Community Archaeology and all continues to go well. We have not found lots and lots of artifacts, but the ones recovered support our interpretation of the site as a temporary hunting camp.
I am very happy that we have found a different kind of site. If we had wanted to find lots and lots of cool artifacts we could have always excavated an Alutiiq winter village. However, the artifacts and features we are finding are telling a cool story about a whole different aspect of the Alutiiq seasonal round that has not been well documented archaeologically – the Alutiiq hunting camp. We are learning something new.
All the artifacts we have found continue to be mostly hunting tools. So far, there are very few flakes or tool manufacturing debris and no ulus or netsinkers (tools associated with fishing). It does not look like the people at the site were making tools or fishing much. This is surprising given the proximity of the site to the mouth of a productive salmon stream at nearby Salonie Creek. My best guess is that people camped here to hunt seals, and did not spend a lot of time at the site. Basically I think they brought finished tools to the site, sharpened and refurbished tools while they waited to spot a seal, and then paddled off to kill a seal and brought it back to a base camp – perhaps to the nearby Salonie Mound site we excavated a few years ago.
One of the big mysteries that we still have not figured out is a HUGE pile of rocks associated with the 5,000 year old occupation. It obviously took a lot of work to create, those are some huge rocks, but what is it? My best guess at the moment is a meat cache. I remember when I worked in Baffin Island in the Canadian East Arctic that the local Inuit would create enormous piles of rock over cached walrus meat to keep Polar Bears from stealing the meat (I also remember seeing the polar bears getting into the meat). Is that what we have found?