Treasures in the Frosty Ground

13-246~415Ah winter excavation – such fun, such aggravation, such slippery port-o-potties (these are our legitimate safety concerns apparently). The sites have been fantastic so far – such hidden treasures! The staffing aspect has been a bit bumpy though, I didn’t think expecting archaeologists to have basic excavation skills would be such an outrageous expectation. Dealing with the corporate aspect has been beyond exhausting – there are far too many people trying to get their hands into this project – everyone is trying to get ahead in the company and only a small handful seem to know what we actually need to do our job efficiently. But weekends, those are golden. It’s not that we don’t work on the weekends, but no one back in the city does – there are no phone calls or pressing emails, just digging, wonderful digging.13-246~744

We’ve been excavating 4 sites since we got out here in October, one of which was complete rubbish – nothing but mixed stratigraphy and everything out of place. Conveniently this was the site that the nearby construction crew wiped out half of prior to our digging (oops!). There was a magical/shocking day where we went looking for the site only to find the hill and forest it was part of were missing…

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The workplace depression, small hearth is in the lower left unit

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The chopper/core we found at 180 cm below surface.

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Our bone pit partially exposed

The other three sites though have been spectacularly good to us, each one has had at least one awesome aspect. The first site had a long animal burrow stuffed with bison skulls (more to come on that one since it is so unique and filled with stuff), the second site had a shallow work-area depression and hearth feature, and the one we’re on now seems to have a hidden occupation at 180 cm below surface that was not identified during the initial testing of the area (there goes our budget!). I’m excited to see what comes of it, it’s probably older than anything I’ve dug previously in North America but the tricky part is making it safe for us to dig that far down in such sandy conditions.  Time to do some problem solving!

All the Pretty Things

As promised, here are some of the pretty, shiny things that we found. We also found a ton of flakes – the garbage that would have been left over after making fine tools like these (but they’re less pretty to look at), as well as a fair amount of burnt or calcine bone (animal). Animal bone was often burned at high temperatures in order to make the bones brittle. This, in turn, made it easier to get out the marrow which was a valuable source of nutrients. We were really hoping to come across the hearth or boiling pit where they were doing this but alas, we did not stumble upon it this time. But by looking at the concentrations of finds, you start to get a feel for how the area was divided up  – projectile points were being made or retouched (resharpened) near the end of the promontory, while the cooking would have taken place further back from the edge where the landform widens out a bit.  It’s still a fragmented picture of what was going on at the site, but it is a start.

(you can click on the pics to find out a bit of info on them)