One of the benefits of running this blog is I get to decide what counts as Northwest Coast Archaeology, and today I’m including the amazing Nunalleq site in SW Alaska. Strengthening my claim this belongs to the NW Coast is that the indispensable Dr. Madonna Moss of U. Oregon has been working there lately – which makes it NW Coast, right? Q.E.D. Anyway the project has been running for about five years, and their blog for three, so there is lots to read up on, and see. The site, lying in Yup’ik territory, contains deposits (house and otherwise) up to around 2,000 years old and has been rapidly eroding of late. What started as a salvage project quickly turned into a major effort as deposits of incredible richness were encountered, with preservation enhanced by frozen soil/permafrost. I’m currently in a fairly remote spot with slow internet and bandwidth constraints, so I am just going to link to a few highlights of the blog and let you explore the rest.
- This 2014 news item from the Alaska Dispatch News gives a great overview of the site including video and photo gallery. It’s from the blog’s page of links to press coverage. That page also leads us to this article, which reveals the project budget is 1.7 million dollars (!) and comes from the U.K. (!!), where project co-lead Dr Rick Knecht is now based at Aberdeen – his page contains scholarly links to Nunalleq as well. The other co-lead, Dr. Charlotta Hillerdal, also at Aberdeen, has a few youtube videos posted which I have not yet watched.
- This video from 2013, Nunalleq: The Old Village, also does a great job of setting the scene at the site.
- Speaking of videos, I also really liked this one, in which community members reflect on the archaeological dig and what it means to them and their community.
- And, speaking of the community, this is a nice post showing how archaeology is being used as a focus for teaching in the local school. There is a wonderful story and art from a 6th grader, Marita Tunutmoak, featured.
- If the picture above of the amber beads intrigued you, then following posts tagged with “Artifact of the Day” will be worth your while. Finding hafted ulus is apparently routine, true excitement being saved for Walrus Transformation Masks. This cache of tools is also spectacular, and this Net Needle may be of interest to the Hakai group, who recently found something similar, only much older.
- OK, I can’t help myself, this fossil mammoth tusk, ancient even when the site was used, is also a cool find, perhaps brought to the site as raw material for ivory carving. The Yup’ik have stories about these mammoth remains, they “were animals that lived under ground, and borrowed through the earth. If they accidentally came out to the fresh air they died, and that’s why they were sometimes found – dead – in the earth.”
- The boardwalks shown above, which criss-crossed the site, are very interesting, especially in an area not known for its trees. This considerable labour investment in keeping dry underfoot is notable. I mentioned this elsewhere in this blog when discussing the images by Webber at Yuquot and by Alexander in Bute Inlet – apparent boardwalks and platforms in that picture of an active midden and village. It’s something to keep in mind for us further south than Nunalleq, I think.
- And, Madonna herself authors a few posts, such as this one on mysterious mussel remains and this one on salmon – not to mention the one describing “perhaps the most powerful” artifact she has ever found.
Anyway, this is all getting a little long and is only meant to say congrats to the Nunalleq team of bloggers, the lead archaeologists, and the entire community for sharing so fully their amazing research. I fear this is a bit of a harbinger of climate change though, as rising sea levels worldwide may well be eating into hundreds of thousands of coastal archaeological sites in the next century.