I’m in Fairbanks on a combined trip to do some work on the WALRUS project and to give a couple of papers at the Alaska Anthropological Association’s 44th Annual Meeting. I was supposed to come down on Sunday and got to a zooarchaeological workshop on teeth, but alas there was a blizzard in Utqiaġvik, and that didn’t happen.
Last night, there was the opening reception. Jenny Blanchard had organized 2-minute talks, which went well. I did 2 minutes on Walakpa 2016, with a plug for Walakpa 2017. We didn’t get quite as many people as we’d hoped, since we were in a room at the end of the main entry hall, and people had to pass the bar with free beer to get there, so some folks got sidetracked.
The day started early with a paper on Arctic genetics by Jennifer Raff, Justin Tackney, Margarita Rzhetskaya, Geoff Hayes and Dennis O’Rourke, in a session on the Seward Peninsula. All of them except for Margarita had worked on the Nuvuk people as part of a big project, also involving modern that was at least in part done at the request of Utqiaġvik Elders (although they didn’t have to twist Dennis & Geoff’s arms too hard). That project contributed to this paper, and as results continue to come out, it is only getting more interesting. Now that the North Slope is somewhat understood, the Seward Peninsula is the next gap.
The rest of the session focussed largely on the first field season of a project at Cape Espenberg spearheaded by Claire Alix and Owen Mason. They are working on a couple of Birnirk houses, one of which was started by an earlier project there that I spent a couple of weeks on. Very interesting material coming out, and very interesting geomorphological and paleoenvironmental work in progress. Their dates for Birnirk seem to be running a bit later than what we are seeing at Walakpa, up into the range I would call Early Thule at Nuvuk. Of course, we aren’t really talking about two different groups of people here, bur rather a change through time, but it is still interesting. They aren’t nearly done with one of the houses, so it will be interesting to see if they get some earlier dates.
Spent the afternoon polishing my PowerPoints for tomorrow, and now I’m going to try to catch up on sleep.
I have been really busy the last month, trying to finish several reports and papers, plan for the summer, and get ready for a research visit from Tony Krus of SUERC, who was a member of the 2008 Nuvuk field crew before he headed off to grad school. He is now Dr. Krus, and was able to get a grant to come over and work on Bayesian modeling for Barrow area dates, as well as attempting to improve the value for DeltaR (a correction factor used with radiocarbon dates on marine organisms to compensate for the excess older carbon found in the oceans). Between the massive amount of writing I was doing and smashing a finger getting luggage out of the overhead coming back from a trip, I’ve not been blogging.
I hope to catch up with things a bit; there’s been considerable activity on the DONOP/global change threats to cultural and natural heritage front, as well as planning for Walakpa.
WALRUS – Walrus Adaptability and Long-term Responses; Using multi-proxy data to project Sustainability
We are seeking students (high school or college) to work in the archaeological laboratory on artifacts as part of several NSF-funded research projects. The lab crew will be working on processing artifacts excavated at Nuvuk, Walakpa and other North Slope sites.
This will involve cleaning (gently), sorting, marking, cataloging and preparing some items for transfer to a long-term repository. We will also be going through and sorting some frozen organic samples from an earlier project in Barrow that have been sent back from New York State.
We also will be attempting to find walrus bones in these collections for analysis at UAF. There is a possibility for student travel in connection with that project.
You do not need any prior experience; we can train you. Many archaeology crew members start as high school students. Once you learn how to do the work, scheduling can be very flexible. If you have skills in drawing, photography, or data entry, we can really use your help as well! Starting wages will depend on experience and qualifications.
To apply, send a resume and cover letter to Anne Jensen, firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. You can use the contact form below for questions.
I have gotten far enough along in getting over the back surgery that I finally have enough energy to do things that are not strictly essential for work or staying fed. So we are ramping things up in the lab.
We are looking for a few more people to work in the lab here in Barrow, joining the current crew on weekdays or weekends. Due to the source of funding, these folks will need to be high school or college students. We are also looking for volunteers. I will post the announcements on here a static page and also as posts.
We aren’t sure yet if we will have funds available to do fieldwork this summer, but we are hopeful. If we do get into the field this summer, people who have lab experience will have priority for fieldwork jobs.
If you are interested, please contact me ASAP. Please pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested.
I made it back from DC on Thursday night. Friday was the usual scramble after being out of town. Saturday night was the annual meeting of the Friends of the Library. There was a business meeting, and a potluck dinner. But the highlight of the meeting was the guest speaker, none other than Daniel Inulak Lum, author of the book Nuvuk, the Northernmost: Altered Land, Altered Lives in Barrow, Alaska.
Dan’s family is Nuvukmiut (that’s how it is spelled in Nuvuk dialect–it would be Nuvugmiut in Barrow dialect), originally from Nuvuk. He ran a tour company which took tourists to Nuvuk for much of the time the Nuvuk Archaeological Project was active. While doing that, he wound up taking a whole lot of pictures. He has some really great animal photos, particularly of bears, as well as some really beautiful landscapes shots. His family had to move to Fairbanks for a while for reasons connected to health of a family member, so he isn’t running the tour company any more, but it gave him an opportunity to look through his pictures and he wound up writing a book about Nuvuk and life in Barrow.
When he was running the tour company, Dan gave great tours. He really wanted to pass on accurate information to his clients, and would stop at our excavations and talk to us, so he had the latest news. As he said in his talk, the village is no longer there (due to erosion) so all the Nuvukmiut have to remember it by is information from oral history and archaeology. He’d always check to see if it was OK to bring the tourists over (not if we were excavating human remains), and was always willing to bring things back and forth for us in his van. When the Ipiutak sled runners were uncovered, Dan stood by until we had them out of the ground around 2AM (despite having had tours all day) and then drove them very slowly back to the lab at NARL, making sure that they weren’t bounced around. It took over an hour to go the five or so miles. He also brought pop out for the crew on warm days.
Dan showed slides of many of the photos from the book, and talked about how he came to write a book in the first place. He was very encouraging to audience members about writing and publishing their own books.
We’ve added a couple of new student hire for the summer, but still have room for one or two more, so if you are interested, get in touch ASAP!
With the larger crew, we have been working on getting some of the Pingusugruk collection sorted and in proper archival boxes. We need to move the container it was in, so we’d have to move the boxes anyway, and this way we can not only record which bag is in which numbered box, but also sort the “Tamis” bags, which are the 25% random sample drawn at time of excavation from the rest, to make future analysis easier, and find the rest of the bags from the column sample that Rebecca Connor & Angelique Neffe started on, so I can finish that analysis. Most of this work is being done by our adult volunteers.
The students worked on this a little, mostly to get it set up so the volunteers can work easily, and also to get more room on the lab benches, so that they can work on the Nuvuk materials with no chance of things getting mixed up. In the process, we had a number of animal bones that were collected on the beach or tundra and donated to us. Some of them have been labeled as to species and element, and are being used to help with the preliminary sort and cataloging of the materials from Nuvuk Locus 6 midden.
There were a few things which were sort of superfluous, like a caribou skull. The students really wanted to use it as a decoration, so with a little glue to keep the teeth in, it was suspended outside the door (using peel-off hangers of course to avoid damaging the wall.
Apparently, they found something else they felt was not necessary to include in the comparative collection, either because we haven’t found any (we haven’t) or because they figure everyone already knows what it is. The next day, this is what the door looked like.
The new addition is a walrus baculum, often known as an oosik. I doubt some of the visiting scientists know what they are looking at :-).
I just got an email from the editor of Polar Geography, the journal in which on of the articles I have been working on over the past year or so was recently published as part of a special issue on Arctic Community Engagement during the 2007-2008 International Polar Year. He has been able to arrange for several of the contributions to the issue, including my article, to be available Free Access (no pay wall) until the end of January 2013. My article is here, and the contents of the entire issue, with links to the various articles, is here.
This is a limited time offer, so if you are interested, head over there now. You should be able to download the free articles to read later.
I got back to Barrow to find snow on the ground. It hasn’t been that stormy here, but we had a coastal flood warning over the weekend, with part of the road to Nuvuk getting washed out, and waves getting over many of the berms. I am afraid that there may have been significant damage to the site beyond the 20 m we already lost in September. I would like to get out and take a look, maybe even shoot in the bluff, before I go to Valdez & Seattle, but that is not looking too likely.
Apparently, there is a likelihood of a storm surge from the Chukchi and flooding over the next few days, maybe until the 22nd or so. The North Slope Borough is quite worried, and sending out info on emergency kits & so forth. Not a great situation. The house I live in floated in the last really big storm surge event in 1963, and if it does it again, it could wind up in the NARL sewage lagoon. Yuck.
We’ll be prepared, but I don’t think it is that likely to get that bad. However, it most certainly is already damaging Nuvuk more. It has been blowing from the north and winds are picking up. It is a bit depressing given that erosion must nearly have reached the GPR returns that we think are Ipiutak features.
Not much to be done about it, so I just push on with writing proposals & papers. I’m going to a workshop on the Kurils & Aleutians, and am slightly belated working on the conference paper. Just as I got ready to really check out the other papers prior to doing the serious writing (the outline is done), it was discovered the website had lost the last 3 weeks of updates (explains where my stuff went–I thought they were just being slow getting it up), so I couldn’t get into it. I hope we don’t lose Internet later this week, and that I have decent connectivity in Valdez.
I’m almost done with the last of the papers I (over)committed to. I am waiting for one reference and the encyclopedia entry on frozen sites will be done. I’ve got a few more references to add and a few more C14 dates to calibrate and the chapter on North Slope archaeology for a Point Hope bioarcheology volume will be ready to go off for review. I have a general NS archeology document that I wrote and update on a regular basis that I use when people ask for background. Because the available information about the published C14 dates from some of the earlier sites is not really sufficient to calibrate them (and the archaeologists haven’t published calibrated dates) I had been using BP (before present–present being 1950) dates in this, but decided that I needed to bite the bullet and get some calibrated dates. Some more recent work has resulted in calibrated dates being available, so I can at least give date ranges for the various cultures in cal years, which should be an improvement.
I started to work on the two NSF proposals that are up next. I am working on both a RAPID and a regular proposal for work on the Ipiutak component at Nuvuk. Unfortunately the NSF Fastlane web site wouldn’t let me see any of the PDFs that it converts things to. I’ll have to take this up with their tech support in the morning.