Once we finished with the original reason for the trip, we headed back to town for lunch. The Olgoonik Hotel does have a very tasty grilled cheese sandwich, and they make their own soups.
Since there was time left, I decided it would be a good idea to go back to the general area where the possible road would go, since between the TLUI and the AHRS there were a number of nearby sites. Given that many of them were not located by GPS (in some cases the only location data was something like “3 miles from Wainwright” it seemed like it would help my clients to know a bit more about the situation prior to actually trying to design a road.
The TLUI showed an area whose name translates as “a place to tent” very close to the find. There was a fairly flat area between the river and a lagoon which looked likely (especially in the past, when sea level was a wee bit lower) so we went there. There was some evidence of tenting, and a lot more of butchering, mostly of larger marine mammals, including beluga and maybe a porpoise (they are found around there, and the skull didn’t look right for a beluga, of which there were multiple examples). But what there was also evidence of was archaeology. And lots of it! There were a veritable plethora of trenches, very overgrown, so this had all happened some time ago.
Tim was fascinated, and wanted to clean a wall, so I headed off to get my trowel. He’d started with a bone he found, and discovered that under the lichen the wall in question was very hard. I started to clean it and immediately recognized oil-indurated sand. It became clear that there were overlapping patches of oil induration at various levels, and that the area had been used to process marine mammals for some time. It was a sunny day, and after a while the smell of marine mammal oil permeated the pit. It’s the smell of archaeology in the north, and I love it. Others may think differently.
This was very interesting, as one would expect that this much excavation would only happen if the archaeologists were finding things. If one put several sterile trenches in, one would probably go elsewhere. Yet, there is no site recorded in the AHRS at that location, and I’m not sure who did this. There are a couple of hints in Waldo Bodfish’s autobiography with Bill Schneider, but there is still a mystery to solve there.
And then there’s Maudheim…