Archaeology Pics

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
In a recent post, Martin asked for readers to send him pics of items they've found, drawings they've done of artifacts, etc and he would post them on his site. I had some which I had taken back in my university days when I was on a dig in Jasper but didn't feel they were of the quality he was looking for. However, I'd still like to share them with y'all as the 6 weeks I spent with these folks were some of the most memorable (I'm still waiting for the day that the RCMP are going to show up on my doorstep and arrest me for stealing that A&W mug from the restaurant in Jasper...).

Here's the gang. You'll have to forgive the quality of my pics. The camera I had at the time wasn't that great and when the pics were scanned into my computer, they didn't come through very clearly. As you can see, most of us are wearing the archaeologist's uniform: khakis or jeans, tshirts, and topped with baseball hats or bandanas. Not to mention the thick layer of filth displayed by the shirtless Grant Zazula in the front row. Our group was the second or three sets of students sent to work on a site in Jasper National Park located on the Snake Indian River (this isn't the final report but Parks' Archaeologist Peter Francis does provide a write up on the site - you may have to scroll down a bit). The site was discovered by hikers walking along the river. The upper part of the river bank was eroding away and exposed part of the site. Park archaeologists were alerted and the University of Alberta was allowed to set up a field school during the summers of 1996-98 in order to excavate the site before it was lost.

As always, here I am hard at work in my little pit. We had great weather up until the last couple of days and then it rained. My pit, located towards the back (inland) of the site had been started and the summer previously. I was a lucky duck. As it had been started by one of the more experienced graduate students, it had almost perfectly straight sides, a level floor and only one person anywhere close to me so I could work in peace and quiet. Even back then, I had enormous ta-tas and of course my killer smile. Damn I'm one cute digger.

Am I the only one who gets the urge to play "Whack A Mole" when they look at this picture? This was the view from my pit looking west towards the river. The bank on the far side was quite low compared to ours - there was about a 30 foot drop to the river just behind these guys and hiking up to the site could be a bit treacherous at times. Especially the first day when none of us knew where we were going, what was ahead, and carrying sifters, buckets, tarps, and surveying equipment on top of our own personal gear, food, and enough water for the day. The smiley guy in front is (was) my friend Alberto Musacchio, a PhD student from Rome. He was also a clown...literally. He would entertain at kids parties to earn extra money. He was extremely intelligent but suffered from extreme depression. He passed away shortly after I graduated in 1999. It's still unclear what happened but I have my suspicions. I'm sure he's having a blast wherever he is, cigarette in one hand, a macchiato in the other, smiling at every young hot blonde he can see. Behind him to the left is Alvaro Arce who is currently doing his PhD in Paleopathology at the University of Durham in the UK. A fantastic dancer (we had to amuse ourselves in the lab somehow...) and plays a wicked classical guitar. And just over Alberto's left arm, with only her head visible is Nicole Obert, smart, funny, a bit senstive but all round nice person. She's currently working as a health inspector here in Edmonton. Poor girl, I bet she'd rather face the mice in our cabins and the possibility of catching beaver fever than having to inspect some of the restaurants in town.

This is a scraper. Everyone "Oooh" and "Aaaah". I found this about half way through the summer. Probably one of the most intact tools found all over the three years. Yep, I'm a superstar. It took an extreme test of my patience not to rip it out of it's centuries old spot in my pit. Its probably a good thing I ended up not being an archaeologist. I lack patience. It took the entire day to dig it out as we had to remove the surrounding dirt layer by painful layer, documenting depth, provenience, and draw it's location and note the proximity of debitage (cast off flakes/waste material) around it. This last part proved extremely difficult as it seemed everytime you moved and bump up against any of the walls, dirt and stone flakes showered the floor of the pit making it almost impossible to determine what was found at that level and what was much later in date. Arrrrggghhh. The quality of the pic is, once again, poor and I apologize for that but the piece itself is quite fabulous. If I remember correctly, I believe it was approximately 3-4 inches long and about 2 inches wide at the middle. I was one of the few lucky ones over the three different crews. There was also another, thinner blade which I uncovered in my pit in a layer just above this one but alas, no picture. There was clear evidence of wear which was going to be looked at once the dig was finished. With the exception of Lori Fossum (see below) who made our biggest find, there were a few others who found HUGE collections of flakes at upper levels indicating possible manufacturing locations but the majority of them merely found a couple of flakes here and there, and a hole lot of dirt.

Here it is. Our "big" find. Certainly not big in the size measured about an inch across and just under an inch tall and this was the only piece of the projectile point which was found. At the time, it was believed that it was the base of a Clovis point which was considered to be the oldest known technology in the Americas. However, there is apparently much debate about this going on now so our find may not be as significant as we believed when my bunk mate, Lori Fossum, unearthed it in her pit on our very last day of digging. At first many of us assumed it was a joke as our fearless leader, Caroline Hudacek-Cuffe, had jokingly commented all summer that in order to get top marks in the class, we'd have to find a Clovis point. Sure enough, it was no joke and the fact that it was found on the last dig day made it all the more ironic. Lori was getting ready to stop digging and refill her pit to preserve it for the next year's group when she gave a few final scrapes with her trowel. As with many of the pits, with each scrape a flake or two would pop up into the air and fall with a light "pooft" as it hit the disturbed soil. However, on one of those last fateful scrapes Lori's trowel hit something that made a much more noticable "clink" sound and the sound it made was a heavier "POOFT" when it landed. The rest, they say, is history.

So there you go. I have more pictures but I have to have them scanned at work so I'm not sure when I'll get around to posting any more of them. Enjoy :)


Wandering Coyote said...

Cool! I looks like an awesome time. I once considered archaeology, too, after seeing a dig in Fort York, Toronto. The students there looked like they were having a good time. Then I realized all the schooling involved...

Biby Cletus said...

Nice post, its a Super cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

The Snake River

Anonymous said...

Those were good times! Thanks for the posting, brought back fabulous memories! (Nic)

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