Monthly Archives: July 2013

Archaeological project blog from shíshálh territory

    Archaeologists in shíshálh territory using iPads during excavation. Source: http://shishalharchaeology.wordpress.com/

Archaeologists in shíshálh territory using iPads during excavation. Source: http://shishalharchaeology.wordpress.com/

Last summer we had a good discussion of the vast number of beads coming from some human burials being excavated in shíshálh territory (Sechelt). Tose finds are part of a larger joint research program between the shíshálh Nation, National Museum of Civilization, and the University of Toronto, which has resumed and has a blog.

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Yukon College Fieldschool Websites

Remains of the Mud Monster

Remains of the Mud Monster. Source: facebook.

I think it’s just wound down, but the recurring Yukon College fieldschool “methods in subarctic ethnography and archaeology” spawned some good websites and blog entries.  This fieldschool, convened by Norm Easton, has been happening for quite a few years now.  It has inspired a lot of students, including some from these parts, as well as made major contributions to anthropological knowledge in the broad sense of the term.

This year there was an active facebook page on which, among many other things, are posted thousands of photographs.  I checked and I don’t think you need to be on facebook to read these pages.  Four students also started blogs to track their experiences.  Of these, Yankee in the Yukon never really got off the ground with only two fairly short pieces.  Yukon Adventures also only had two posts, but these are well written, longer reflections of the leadup to the project. Archaeology Adventures had more posts, but is primarily a photo blog – evocative photos but with relatively little context – the surface finds of the blogging world!  It’s great to see students putting their thoughts and pictures out there beyond their own facebook udpdates – each of which is a bit of a walled garden relative to the rest of the internet.

The most sustained blog, one that is successful by any standard, is Yukonic.

Excavations at Little John Site.  source: facebook.

Excavations at Little John Site. source: facebook.

Here you will find dozens of well-written and reflective entries from “Kalista”, a student from rural Alberta,  who tracks the highs and lows, the trivia and depth, the raw and the cooked of the fieldschool experience.  Consider how she comes to say goodbye:

Because while the Archaeology was cool: hearths, obsidian flakes, a rodent tooth, bone fragments, and a preliminary or perhaps heavily eroded side-notched point in addition to other student’s impressive finds of blades, a complete bison heel bone, a perhaps 13000+ year old game-changer biface, and the admittedly really cool, very old squirrel bones, behind all of those things except perhaps some of the bones, is people. The cultural material only exists because of people. Accordingly, it is the people that made my experience in Beaver Creek. People like Leslie, Chelsea, Tamika, Eddy, Blake, Bessie, Wilfred, Louis and Robert, Eldred, Jessica, Pat, Pat’s wife (whose name unfortunately always evades me), Jolinda, Ryan, Glen, other Glen, Marilyn, DJ, Mike, Tristain, Leon, Tayla, Tom, Forrest, Ian, Martha, Julius, Susie, Selena, Roland, Star, Derrick, Ken, Doug, many more people and names I am forgetting, and of course Ruth and David. A list of names that may be forgotten corresponding to a community of people I intend never to forget.

Luckily, Tamika had the great idea to have hers and Eddy’s birthday celebration before we left so there was a nice gathering that unfortunately ended with goodbyes. The birthday party felt like home: copious amounts of food, the older people eating first, and three types of dessert (because one just isn’t enough).

It felt like home because of the parallel’s to my own family’s celebrations but also due to the welcome we were afforded in our time at the Little John Site: our welcome sign the first day, countless visits, teaching us Upper Tanana and how to make birch bark baskets, shotgun and rifle shooting, ball games, numerous other activities; their way of life. As David said, we are now ambassadors of their culture and if possible, I hope to be able to show some of the character the White River First Nation showed us.

No, I am not good at goodbyes. What do you say? How do you thank enough, wish well enough people who did so much yet you may never see again? Consequently of these thoughts, I am a most awkward person at goodbyes and perhaps do not look like I feel much, but as I put this goodbye on paper, I could cry.

It’s strongly to the credit of the fieldschool leaders (Norm especially, no doubt, but I am sure he has cultivated a cast of characters….) that the experience is more about people than about things.  Archaeology is always, or should always, be about people, not things, and if you can’t see the people in the present then what hope for finding them in the past?

The inimitable Glen  showing off his chops.

Speaking of “people”: the inimitable Glen showing off his chops.

More on Stone Bowls and Reality Shows

Screenshot from Times-Colonist of Qualicum bowl which may be subjected to reality TV auction by CBC.

Screenshot from Times-Colonist of Qualicum bowl which may be subjected to reality TV auction by CBC.  Click to enlarge.

The Times-Colonist has another article (PDF) on the seated human figure bowl which may go up for auction as part of a crass CBC reality TV show. The new article has some good information about the bowl from Grant Keddie and reactions from the B.C. Archaeology Branch and the CBC.  Thanks to twoeyes for posting this article in comments in the prior post; I thought it needed a new entry of its own.

The bowl was apparently found in Qualicum Beach in 1988, and is known to the Royal BC Museum – it has been photographed by them (see screenshot above).  I’m not sure if there has been any publications about this bowl, if the Qualicum First Nation knew about it before this mini-controversy, or what has been said to the owner about the importance of the item. The Times-Colonist does have some interesting quotes from those involved.

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Laser imaging of Sitka poles

Lidar model merged with photograph to document carved pole, Sitka, Alaska.  Source: NPS.

Lidar model merged with photograph to document carved pole, Sitka, Alaska. Source: National Park Service.

This is an interesting application of Lidar technology – creating a durable, highly precise, digital image of a standing pole, which can then be wrapped with high-resolution photographs and used in a “virtual tour” context. It can also be  an archive for conservation.  The project is underway to record a couple of dozen Tlingit poles in an outdoor setting in Sitka, Alaska.

Lidar stands for “light distancing and ranging” and is basically like radar or sonar, only using laser beams.  Thousands of individual laser bursts can measure the three-dimensional surface of something like a totem pole to accuracy of a millimetre or less.  This creates an accurate digital record of the shape of the pole which can then be rendered on-screen in various three-dimensional ways.  Lidar has seen a fair bit of use in archaeological survey (especially its ability to digitally clearcut the trees) and also has seen quite a bit of table-top use to record artifacts in exquisite detail.  The “meso-scale” recording of features like poles is less common though, especially outside of historical and classical archaeology.  There is a lot of potential for recording petroglyphs I think — for example this recent dissertation (which I need to order) apparently shows proof of concept at Writing-On-Stone in southern Alberta.

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