Big City TV looks at Utqiaġvik

About a month ago, Tracey Sinclaire and Beth Verge from Anchorage TV station KTUU came to Utqiagvik to do a number of weather/climate-related stories. One was on the effects of coastal erosion. I took them out toward Nuvuk/Point Barrow as far as seemed prudent for the vehicle I had, and got interviewed. The weather was quite challenging while they were here, but they hung in and got stories on the NOAA site, and the blue football field which is endangered by coastal erosion.

Input needed–Microbial Threats in the Arctic

Area near Utqiaġvik with measles graves from early 1900’s epidemic

I’m taking part in a workshop on Health Security Risks from Microbial Threats in the Arctic.  I’m looking for any experiences with such, particularly connected to archaeology.  Also interested in any published references.  Have some, trying to make a better list.  Please DM or email me if you can help.  I’ll be traveling Sunday & Monday.

RIP Dennis Stanford

Six days ago I opened my computer to be greeted by news of Dennis Stanford’s passing. Dennis was a giant in North American archaeology. Before he went to the Smithsonian and became famous, he was a graduate student. His dissertation was based on his excavations at none other than Walakpa, covered in one of his books.

I can’t remember when I first met Dennis, but it was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I remember hearing about the elephant butchery experiment from folks who had been lucky enough to play a small part. As someone who was involved in Arctic archaeology, I was aware of his work at Walakpa, but never really thought about working there. When I first started working in North Alaska, I bought a copy of the Walakpa monograph, which turned out have once belonged to Chief Justice Warren Burger, of all people. It was for reference when I was writing about other sites.

Then in 2013 the Walakpa site started eroding. We started salvage work there. Based on the Walakpa volume, I was able to tie our site grid into the grid Dennis had established in the 1960s. I contacted Dennis, and he was kind enough to share copies of the field notes (still sorted by which chapter of his dissertation they related to), and was always willing to answer any questions I had that weren’t covered in the notes. We planned on getting him to come to Walakpa when we had an excavation open, but we didn’t manage that before his health problems started. We talked about it the last time I saw him in person. I’m sorry that will never happen now. I think he would have enjoyed it.


Climate Change and Cultural Resources seminar (SAA members only)

As usual, things have been busy. One of the things I’ve been busy with was an online seminar for the Society of American Archaeology on “Climate Change and Cultural Resources.” Despite some connectivity issues, it went off well. SAA records these seminars, and you can watch them if you are a current member. You will need to be logged in to the SAA web site member section to access the archive. The climate change one is here.

Time for Recent Research Notes for AJA

It’s time to send in submissions for the Alaska Journal of Anthropology Recent Research Notes sections. It needs to go to the editors by early March at the latest, so get them in now! If you want to include any images, we need publication quality versions at the same time. We welcome notes about all fields of anthropology as well as related studies. More info here.

NB. There is a new style guide for AJA here. Please use it. I’m super busy this winter, so I can’t spend time fixing formatting, but I do want to be able to include your submission.

National Climate Assessment 4 is released

Black Friday wouldn’t seem like the ideal day to release a report as important as this, but there it is.  This report is Part 2, covering Risks, Impacts and Adaptation in the US. It is based on a massive amount of scientific study, as detailed in Part 1, which was released last year.

For those who don’t have time to read it, the short version is that things are going to get really bad soon in many parts of the US if we don’t turn this car around.  Fires, floods, coastal erosion & flooding and declining property values along the coast, climate refugees, heat waves that kill people, infrastructure collapse, agricultural failures with decreasing food security and increasing food prices, and so on.  And the knock-on effects of all that will impact places and industries that maybe aren’t feeling direct effects, so the economy will shrink. Not a pretty picture.

It won’t be just Arctic peoples’ cultural heritage and valuable scientific information that gets lost.  It will be public infrastructure and homes and food sources and drinking water.  The problems that we are seeing here in North Alaska now will most likely be coming to a place near you soon if enough isn’t done to change things.  This really isn’t the sort of thing to be gambling on.

The way it is set up, you can download executive summaries of the whole thing and of each chapter, but not the whole report or whole chapters.  They have to be read online.  Not much thought given to folks who live in rural communities with low bandwidth and/or super expensive internet ($299/month for 5Mb/sec and a 100GB data cap anyone).  If it could be downloaded, costs and the downloaded documents could be shared.

 

 

Call for Papers for SAA session on Environmental Change Impacts

I’m back from over a month in the field, and just got the Committee on Climate Change Strategies and Archaeological Resources (CCSAR)-sponsored session set up for next spring’s SAA meetings.  The session abstract is here.

We are looking for papers. If you are interested and have a paper you think might fit, contact me!

NB.  The hard deadline is coming up fast (September 6, at 3PM ET) and you will need to be registered and with fees paid to be accepted.  You don’t have to renew/establish your SAA membership right now, but will need to do that by the end of January 2019 to give the paper.

Time to write & submit Research Notes!

IMG_4909It is time to think about submitting contributions for the Recent Research Notes column in the Alaska Journal of Anthropology.  Get the word out about a project (maybe find some collaborators), let colleagues know about some interesting little find that isn’t big enough for a full article, keep folks posted on what you are doing.  More specifics here.  This is not limited to archaeologists, folks!

Antiquity article out!

A group of us have been working on an article on climate change and the effects it is having on archaeological sites and the cultural heritage and environmental information they contain.  It has finally been published in the journal Antiquity.  It is open access, so you can read it here.  Local sites, especially Walakpa, make an appearance.

Catching up

It’s been a while since I’ve managed to post.  Lots has been going on, some of it only tangentially related related to archaeology.  I started the year with a partial right knee replacement, which led to lots of PT.  It turned out I had a loose piece of bone the size of an acorn floating around in my knee, according to my surgeon.  Getting that out was a huge improvement, but I had to do a lot of PT to get to a point where I can kneel if necessary for excavation.  I’ve got about 0-132° range of motion, so I can kneel now, although it isn’t pleasant to do it for a long time.

A few weeks later, I gave a paper at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage.  I was able to talk about Patou the mummified seal and the long-headed bear, to an audience largely composed of oceanographers, marine biologists and the like.  It was a great venue to raise awareness of the potential for archaeology to add time depth to research in other disciplines.  Unfortunately, I had to spend most of the meeting in my hotel room icing my knee, so I missed a lot of the other papers.

After that, there were the Alaska Anthropological Association meetings in Anchorage, where I organized a session on Accelerating Environmental Change Threats to Alaskan Cultural Heritage:  Emerging Challenges and Promising Responses, which involved both papers and an open discussion.  I gave a paper in that session and one on Walakpa in a session on Alaskan coastal archaeology.

Next up was the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Washington DC.   I took over as chair of the Committee on Climate Change Strategies and Archaeological Resources (CCSAR).  I gave a paper, in the “Burning Libraries” session sponsored by CCSAR, and was also a discussant for a session on climate and cultural heritage.

Once I get the PowerPoints properly annotated I’ll put them up on-line.

A month ago, I also had retinal and cataract surgery, to resolve a retinal pucker that was blurring and warping the center of my visual field in my right eye.  The surgeon says my vision should improve over several months, but it already has improved considerably, since lines now look straight to my right eye!  I just had a one month followup visit and the doctor said I now have a foveal pit (which you are supposed to have, but which had been absent pre-surgery).  Anyway, I can see much better.

I’ve also been working on a whole bunch of articles, some coauthored with various colleagues and some that I am sole author on.  I’ve also been working on several proposals.  All that made for more than enough writing, which perhaps explains the silence here.

I’m going to be spending a good part of the summer in the community of Kaktovik monitoring the remediation of the old Air Force hangar, which contained some materials now known to be hazardous.  They are being removed as part of the demolition process, and even some of the soil around and under the hangar will be taken away.  That’s where I come in, since the hangar was built before most cultural resources protections were in place, and there is a chance that it was built on top of an old site.  Most likely there will be nothing archaeological there, but at least if there is we should be able to identify it and deal with it properly.

I had hoped to be able to get back out to Walakpa this summer, but that is not looking too promising.  The Kaktovik project falls right into the period when volunteers are available.  Plus the schedule is ever-changing as the remediation progresses.  It might not have worked anyway, since we had a VERY snowy winter, followed by a chilly spring.  As a result, the site is still covered in lots of snow.  People who have been down recently say nothing of our excavation can be seen due to deep snow, and they can’t tell if the site was damaged by the big fall storm that resulted in a disaster declaration for Utqiaġvik (Barrow).  At the rate things are going, if we were planning a field season, we might wind up stuck in the lab for half of it.

 

Papers wanted–Climate Change & Archaeology Session

SO late last year I submitted a session proposal on Environmental Change Threats to Alaskan Cultural Heritage.  I never heard anything, so I assumed the session wasn’t accepted and what with the holidays & the knee replacement, I didn’t try to solicit papers.

I just learned that the session was accepted, so I am looking for participants.  The organizers are being kind enough to give us a couple of extra days past tomorrow’s deadline, but this has a pretty short fuse.  The abstract is linked here, but in short, I want to get a conversation started about this issue.  In many ways, Alaska has more at risk, sooner, than most of the rest of the US or most of the rest of the world, but we seem to be responding more slowly than places like Scotland or Florida or California.  I am hoping for papers that either highlight sites that are being or have been destroyed (you don’t need to have completed excavation & analysis), or showcase specific ways that communities, agencies and/or archaeologists have tried to deal with the issue.  We should have time after the papers to actually start a discussion on ways to deal with this problem beyond simply noticing it exists.

Please send abstracts to me (amjuics@gmail.com) and to Andy Tremayne (Andrew_Tremayne@nps.gov).

Contact me (amjuics@gmail.com) if you have any questions.

 

The work in the lab continues.  Anne Garland and Charlene Penner are diligently working their way through the collections.  Tomorrow Laura Thomas is going to start volunteering as well.  It is a long slow process.  As they go, occasionally an artifact (usually modified bone or tooth) shows up and we have to add it to the catalog.

I’ve been rather busy this week with several projects that came up rather quickly at the end of summer.  For some reason, cultural resources compliance seems to get forgotten in the planning of construction projects more often than it should.  Then there is a scramble to make sure it gets done so permits don’t get held up.  Two of the projects require going to Anaktuvuk Pass, so I spent most of the day trying to make travel arrangements.  They apparently had a power failure, so I wasn’t able to get through to some people there, but nevertheless, I’m heading to Fairbanks on Tuesday and going to AKP on Wednesday morning.  I’ve been doing the background research and writing those sections of the report, so all that will be left is writing up the fieldwork and whatever conclusions & recommendations to which it leads.

The plan is to come back on Friday, since I’ve promised to help with a teacher in-service on Saturday.  I enjoy doing these, since we get so many new teachers on the North Slope every year.  Archaeology, especially local archaeology, can serve as a basis for teaching all sorts of skills, from writing to math to social studies, and doing so from a local culturally-relevant perspective.  So this is something I do not want to miss.

 

Cleaning things

Archaeology is, in some respects, a dirty business.  We excavate things out of the dirt, and, in the process, we can get pretty dirty ourselves.  If we are camping, showers and laundry are rare events.  Walakpa is pretty sandy, so …

This past week, the remaining crew have been working to get equipment cleaned & stored.  We dried several tents, dried and hung up jackets, dried and got the sand off a lot of equipment, and sorted the remaining food.  We were going to donate it to the common pool, but there were already 8 bottles of mustard in the refrigerator, so we’ll store that for next year.

I’ve been working on both project equipment and my personal gear. My dishwasher is full of coffeepots & plates, which will get stored for the winter.  I’ve washed the tent and blanket Garrett Knudsen was kind enough to leave, which was used by several other crew members, and will be mailing it on Monday, along with a few souvenirs that crew members didn’t manage to pack.  I’ve also washed a pile of assorted gloves.  I’ve still got a UICS sleeping bag to wash and dry, and some down jackets to drop off at the dry cleaner.

I have been washing field clothes since I got home.  I spent the weekend washing and drying two sleeping bags (one that I used, and a spare that one of the crew members used, cleaning and packing two Thermarests (ditto), and washing and renewing the waterproofing on my tent & fly.  I’ve still got to rewash the chairs I loaned the project.  The crew power washed the crushed mosquitos off them, but they wound up muddy, so I’ve got to wash them again.

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Clean gear 🙂

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Putting gear away until the next time I head for the field.

And now there are none

The last 2 members of the field crew left today.  Although a few people were only able to be here for the beginning of the season, and a couple had to leave in the middle, most folks came out of the field at the beginning of August.  They have been heading home one or two at a time.  Those who were left worked in the lab stabilizing and cleaning some of the artifacts, drawing and scanning artifacts, and entering data recorded after the transit decided to stop working with a week left in the field season.

 

Back from the field

We got into town late last Thursday.  The field season went pretty well, after a slow start due to ice preventing us from getting out.  We lost a few days to major storms, but we had a great crew and accomplished a lot.

Breaking camp was a bit of a challenge, since we were down to seven people in the field. The big boat was scheduled to arrive at 9AM, so we broke everything down the day before except for the mess tent and the latrine, plus our sleeping tents.  Then we got up at 6 AM and took down all the sleeping tents, and started ferrying gear to the beach with the ATV & trailer.

It turned out the boat ramp wasn’t in the water back in town, so the boat didn’t make it until nearly 1PM, after having to launch into Elson Lagoon and go around Point Barrow.  It was a cold morning, and once we had stuff packed, it was hard to stay warm, especially since we’d dressed for hard work and packed up everything else.  At one point, several of the crew were napping in a ditch.

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Crew members napping.

The boat had to make two trips, so we sent 3 people up with the first load, and then 3 more with the second.  I drove the ATV & Tubby back to town, so I was the last one in.  I left before the boat, but Doctor Island is pretty fast, and I was riding into a north wind and kept meeting people and stopping to chat, so they beat me home.

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Loading the boat.  Photo courtesy of Zac Peterson.

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Heading home.  Photo courtesy of Zac Peterson.

Our first day back was the last day of the UIC Science Fair, and the archaeology lab was featured tour.  Also I had a presentation scheduled.  Everyone was really tired, but we managed to pull things together for a good tour, and in fact had visitors well past the scheduled end of tours.  The presentation was well attended.

As I write this, another early storm with winds from the West is brewing, with predictions of coastal erosion.