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.
Quite a bit of it, in fact. Also for breakfast. I was planning on spending the weekend reading a pile of articles, but life intervened. Since I’m going to be traveling so much, there were a bunch of things I just had to get taken care of before Tuesday morning. And I did need a little down time.
For one thing, I had a thawed goose I had to deal with. The meat became a very nice stew with apples & gooseberries ( and a bit of apple brandy) and the carcase made some nice goose stock. The bones are now reposing in the qanitchaq (arctic entryway) to become a lab exercise.
Then we had to put the slipcover back on the sofa. What a job! But it does look a lot nicer after being washed. Got caught up with the laundry, figured out what I need to pack for the next trip, started some no-knead bread, watered the flowers (the big ones need it several times a day) and then got started on the reading.
This morning I was contacted by folks from Ilisaġvik who were trying to finalize the catalog for spring. Assuming there are enough students (courses taught by adjuncts don’t go unless there are at least 5), I’ll be doing a Fundamentals of Archaeology and a Lab Methods course. The idea is to do them as distance-delivered, with a lab that is in-person for the lab course. People in Barrow can take the lab during the semester, and it can also be offered as a summer camp for those who are outside of Barrow. Today it became clear the lab needed to be a separate course to fit into the catalog format, so I had to hurry up and do a course description for the lab and a new one for the course leaving out the lab components. Then the bread had to be baked & now back to reading articles.
No, not on a treadmill, although it would be nice to have a bit of free time for that. Actually, it’s where I’m at with work. I’ve been thinking about archaeology and ways that it can inform things besides our knowledge of past lifeways. For the past week or so, I’ve been running into lots of articles, posts, calls for white papers, and so on that connect to that in various ways. Today I attended a seminar that brought up a number of issues that archaeology could play a part in addressing in a meaningful way.
However, to take these thoughts further means I need a bit of time to think and read, and then try to put thoughts into sensible words that can communicate with a variety of communities. But the situation at work is still pretty stressful. My boss has sent her admin assistant to help me out and get cross-trained on our stuff for a week or two. Jennifer’s doing great, but it’s a really complex job, so she does have to ask me questions (which she does, instead of grinding to a halt, thank goodness) but I don’t actually know the filing system inside out (we’ve found 2 sets of files for some things where we would only expect one, and aren’t sure what the difference is yet) so sometimes it takes some time.
I am at least making progress on the reports, although ArcMap (the GIS program) decided to get weird this afternoon and refuse to import a bunch of STP (shovel test pit) locations I needed to finish a final map for one of the reports. It should have taken less than half an hour to do the map, but several hours later, no joy. Tomorrow (fingers crossed here).
I also have to finish assembling the PowerPoint for the Saturday Schoolyard talk this Saturday. Trace sent me his piece this evening (amazingly, he’d picked the same template & color scheme I was already using for my part, so that bit should be pretty easy. Heather just found out she isn’t leaving for Fairbanks for the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) meetings until Saturday night, so she’s going to talk too.
Sunday and Monday (which is a holiday in Alaska, so we are off work, theoretically) I am making a quick trip to Anchorage. Maybe I’ll get a little time to think on the plane…
I stayed up way too late last night reading. It wasn’t a mystery, though, although I do that often enough. I was finishing a book of articles on how people move into unknown territory, and how such movements that happened in the past (say, the peopling of the Americas or the islands of the Pacific) can be detected by archaeologists.
The topic is pretty important in Arctic archaeology, since during the Pleistocene (the most recent Ice Age) most of the North American Arctic was covered with ice sheets. Even today, people don’t live on ice sheets, with the exception of science camps at places like Summit, Greenland and the South Pole. Once the ice started melting, plants, animals, and people gradually moved into those areas. One of the obvious questions for archaeologists is when and how.
Actually, it looks like it has happened at least twice. At least two groups of people seem to have spread across the North American Arctic from Alaska (and there may have been a small group earlier). The second major time it happened is often called the Thule Migration, and it’s when the ancestors of today’s Inuit peoples, who now live everywhere between Western Alaska and Greenland, mostly along the coast, first spread across the entire North American Arctic. Why they did it when they did is one of the big questions in Arctic archaeology. The sites that I have been working at lately seem to be possible pieces of the puzzle.