A Reflection on Community Archaeology 2016

Patrick Saltonstall stands in front of site. Kayla Desroches/KMXT
Patrick Saltonstall stands in front of site. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

This year’s Community Archaeology Program, which turns Kodiak locals into archaeologists, wrapped up this month. It was the last year digging the Kashevaroff site at Womens Bay, and Alutiiq Museum Curator of Archaeology Patrick Saltonstall says this year confirmed a lot of the conclusions they’d previously drawn.

He says volunteers dug up hunting tools in the newer layers nearer to the surface, which proved it was a camp where hunters would have worked during the day. They kept digging until the very bottom of the site when they hit glacial till, or the rock and dirt left over after a glacier leaves, and along the way, Saltonstall says they found proof of a settled camp: a house.

“It looked like they dug down to that till everywhere and they flattened it, and then they made a lot of posts to support it – like, what looks like might have been a sod roof, a roof capped with sod. And it looked like it had walls around the outside too, made of stacked sods, so it’s quite a substantial structure.”

He says the organic matter had disintegrated, but they did find evidence of the sod.

“You could sort of see the individual deposits of ash that would have been in each grass clump when they ripped it up. And you can sort of see ‘em. They form a distinctive pattern that looks mixed that we can sort of [say], oh, that was stacked sods right there.”

Saltonstall says he estimates the age of the structure to be around 7000 years old.

“The one we dug in 2014, I think it was, we dated that one to 6800 years old, and I think this one might be a similar age or even older. And I do know it won’t be older than 7100 years, because we have this distinctive ash that fell about that time, and I found that under the house.”

He says they’ll radiocarbon date the house by sending fireplace charcoal from the site to a lab in Miami.

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