Northern fluted point from Raven Bluff site. Source: flickr usr The Arctic Archaeologist.
Some time ago I posted about the Serpentine Hot Springs site in Northwestern Alaska, at which several fluted points have been found, apparently dating to about 12,000 years ago. That’s about a thousand years more recent than Clovis, which is the best known of the early “fluted point” archaeological cultures from the Americas. I was interested to come across another site – Raven Bluff – which has recently come to light from the same general area, and which also has fluted points. At Raven Bluff, at least one of these dates to between about 12,000 and 12,500 years ago – also younger than Clovis, which is mainly confined to a narrow window around 13,000 years ago.
Detail of diorama of Paleomarine Period, Southeast Alaska. Source: Tongass NF
The Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska has a lot of interesting stuff online. I’ve just found they have a cool set of dioramas illustrating different time periods from the last 10,000 years of human history (scroll to the bottom of this page). These start with the palaeomarine period, about 10,000 years, a section of which is seen above. Some of it is conjectural of course and I am not going to go to the wall defending its veracity, but I do appreciate the National Forest making an effort to present the past in an accessible way.
Fishtrap stakes delineating chevron patterns in the intertidal zone of Comox Harbour. Photo credit: Greene 2010.
I posted once before some time ago on the incredible fishtrap complexes in Comox Harbour on eastern Vancouver Island, highlighting Megan Caldwell’s M.A. thesis (downloadable) on the topic, and mentioning in passing that primacy of investigation should perhaps go to Nancy Greene, who has been mapping and dating these features for about a decade. I was glad to find the other day that Nancy Greene has a 2010 downloadable poster on the topic (link starts a 4 meg PDF) from an academic conference: WARP, the Wetland Archaeological Research Project, which itself has a nifty new website.
These Comox Harbour fishtraps are one of the wonders of B.C. Archaeology and it is highly welcome to see some more of Greene’s reconstructions and mapping.
Posted in alaska, anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Technology, underwater archaeology, Vancouver Island
Tagged alaska, Comox, fish weirs, fishing, fishtraps, herring, Intertidal, Q’umu?xs, salmon, Vancouver Island
Well, there’s another headline I never thought I’d write! Don’t ask me how I found it but these Russian guys have a passion for modelling human figures and one of their subjects is a Tlingit warrior. It’s actually pretty impressive, with slat armour faithfully rendered, a wooden helmet and the circular gorget or throat protector. Scroll around on that forum for more images of the model. We’ve looked at Tlingit slat armour on this site once before, as well. The narrow slit between the helmet and the gorget or collar might seem exaggerated, but it agrees with this picture (also perhaps exaggerated) and this drawing, both apparently from Russian sources.
But there was an ancillary benefit to looking through this Russian-language forum: one of the participants has scanned some amazing pages of Tlingit art and artifacts from a Russian book, stuff I had never seen before that perhaps has its origins in colonial Russian Alaska.
"Village of the Friendly Indians at the Entrance of Bute's Canal", 1792. Click for zoomable version.
The above image shows a seemingly improbable Kwiakah Kwakwaka’wakw Village (EDIT: probably Homathko Coast Salish Village) at the entrance to Bute Inlet, as drawn in 1792 by a member of Captain Vancouver’s expedition. With the houses scattered up a steep hillside, the top one apparently partially cantilevered out, it does not fit the average archaeologist’s mental model of a typical Northwest Coast village. The setting would undoubtedly have some defensive advantages, at least for those at the top. I know of another image of a steeply-tiered village site which is apparently not strictly a defensive site. Hard to live on the side of such a steep hill, you might think. Wouldn’t it be nice to have photographs of such a village? Aha.
Posted in alaska, anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast
Tagged alaska, Bute Inlet, household archaeology, houses, Inupiat, King Island, Kwakwaka'wakw, Kwiakah, stilts
Cannon from the Kadyak on the seafloor near Kodiak Island. Source: Archaeology Magazine.
Off Alaska’s Kodiak Island lie the remains of the Russian-American Company ship Kad’yak, which sank in 1860. The wreck of this Barque was rediscovered in 2003, as this first-hand account documents. (It is full of the usual intrigue between divers and dirters and is rich with interesting links about the discovery). Almost immediately, an underwater archaeological research project was formed, participants included people from the Kodiak Maritime Museum, the Baranov Museum, the Alutiiq Museum, the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service in Kodiak, and East Carolina University. This was the first underwater archaeology project in Alaska, and it is ably documented by the Alaska Office of History and Archaeology.
Posted in alaska, Archaeology, history, Northwest Coast, underwater archaeology
Tagged alaska, Kad'yak, kodiak island, Princess Sophia, SCUBA, shipwrecks, underwater archaeology
Working on Yuxwch’ee Yakw, the Spruce Canoe. Source: Sealaska Picasa page.
Most people are familiar with the use of red cedar to make dugout canoes on the Northwest Coast. It is not as commonly known that Sitka spruce was also used for this purpose, especially on the northernmost coast where red cedar did not thrive or was absent completely.
Via the Sealaska Heritage Institute Special Collections blog, I just found a nice, extensive photo set from 1987 of the carving of a spruce canoe near Hoonah, a Tlingit village in Southeast Alaska. The introduction to the photo set reads:
As part of the bicentennial of the Constitution celebration of 1987, the National Park Service and the Sealaska Heritage Foundation (now Sealaska Heritage Institute) sponsored the carving of a Tlingit canoe using traditional tools and methods at Bartlett Cove, which is near Hoonah, Alaska. The canoe, called Yuxwch’ee Yakw in Tlingit, means Sea Otter Canoe, which was the indigenous canoe of Hoonah and was photographed by the Harriman Expedition in Glacier Bay in 1899. The canoe was constructed at Bartlett Cover in August 1987. George Dalton, Sr, born in Hoonah in 1879, and other elders with personal knowledge of canoe making traditions served as cultural advisors to the project. Lead carvers Nathan Jackson, Steve Brown, Richard Dalton, and Mick Beasley carved the canoe using a Sitka Spruce log using traditional tools, such as the xot’ah or Tlingit adze.
Posted in alaska, anthropology, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Technology
Tagged alaska, canoes, carving, cedar, southeast alaska, spruce, tlingit
Stone artifact recently donated to the Sealaska Heritage Institute Special Collections. Source: SHI.
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) is a regional Native nonprofit organization founded for the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. SHI was established in 1981 by Sealaska Corp., a for-profit company formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). SHI, formerly Sealaska Heritage Foundation, administers Sealaska Corp.’s cultural and educational programs.
I know this because I got linked the other day by SHI’s Special Collections Research Center Blog, which I hadn’t seen before. While not updated as frequently as this corner of the internavel is, it contains a lot of great posts going back to 2007 – you can see links to their archives down on the lower right hand side of their front page.
The most recent post concerns the artifact shown above. It looks to my eye like a, possibly unfinished, hand maul. They seem a little uncertain about the function though, so someone should go over to their site and give some opinions – they take comments. People with dirty minds are excluded from this request.
Posted in alaska, anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, pics
Tagged alaska, Haida, Sealaska, Sealaska blog, Southeast, tlingit
Inflating the stomach of a beluga whale. Source: Yupikscience.org
“Yuungnaqpiallerput (The Way We Genuinely Live): Masterworks of Yup’ik Science and Survival” is a fascinating and informative (and large!) website companion to a 2008 exhibition by the same name at the Anchorage Museum. Books and catalogues are also available and look to be excellent.
I know that Yup’ik territory, on the southern flanks of the Bering Straits, is a long way from the Northwest Coast. But there are many similarities in the ingenious tricks and tools of the trade needed for a maritime lifestyle, and this exhibition deftly combines historical, archaeological and ethnographic accounts into a compelling vision of people at ease on land and sea.
Montana Creek Fishtrap being excavated, 1989. Source: Sealaska
In 1989 a nearly complete fish trap was found in Montana Creek, near Juneau Alaska in Aak’w Kwáan Tlingit territory. The cylindrical trap, measuring 3 metres long and 1 metre in diameter, was excavated and found to date to about 600 years ago. The trap was preliminarily reported in Kathryn Bernick’s 1998 book Hidden Dimensions (UBC Press). Fishtraps were supported by wood and/or stone weir structures which also act to direct fish into the trap. The trap would be removed at the end of each season and stored nearby or at camp. Of course, being wood, they intrinsically don’t preserve very well except in anaerobic and wet conditions. They are therefore rather rare since they would need to be left in the creek after use in order to preserve. So this one is very unusual, and especially so since it was essentially complete (other than being flattened). All credit to the finder, Paul Kissner, for being alert, recognizing the trap, and reporting it promptly.
But now, the fishtrap has become very much a living object.
Posted in alaska, anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Northwest Coast, Technology, Uncategorized
Tagged alaska, conservation, fish traps, fish weirs, fishing, Juneau, reconstruction, southeast alaska, tlingit, wet sites