6 July, 2001
We excavated all day today. The sun was shining and it was warm enough to work in a T-shirt and not layers and layers of clothes. It was a perfect day. In the morning you could see across to the Diomede Islands and across to Siberia (remember it is a day later as we look over there, the International Date Line is between Diomede and Siberia). Wales is the most Northwestern village in the continent
Last night it was sunny and clear at midnight. It is still very strange to see sunlight for more than 23 hours a day. It never gets dark. There are also no trees here; we are on the tundra. The flowers are also very small, I think because of the short season. They are dwarfed. They are also beautiful with many vibrant colors and different shapes.
I worked in two quadrants today. I am learning to work around areas with large bone, walrus skulls, and large pieces of wood. We have to draw in the areas and record them before we can remove them. We work on graph paper and use a scale. It is important because later we can view the areas that have been excavated. This is like a mystery, putting all of the pieces together. Each day we talk about people lived here many years ago (700 years we think). Once again I pose questions such as how many people? How did they live? How did they hunt? Did they plant? What did they do for entertainment? What was the role of children in the society? This all hits me as I arrive at TEL 079 North Trench each day. I have been working with Julie and Maria. Amy, Margie, and John have been working at TEL 026 Beach Ridge. They are looking to see if there is a house there.
As we excavate, people from the village sometimes come out to visit and ask questions about the dig. This is interesting because we are getting to know the people in the village. I think some will be working with us as the excavation progresses.
After work, John, Amy, and myself had to get our water for drinking which is at other side of the village and up a very steep hill. We have two, 8-gallon containers (one gallon of water weighs 8 pounds). This too, is all part of this experience that is so different than life in New Salem, Massachusetts. We come to expect our lives to have such luxuries as water any time we want it, and not to conserve it. I think we waste a lot in our lives. I hope to deal with this issue when I return to my new classroom in September.
Animal Biography Time: Walruses are members of a group of marine animals known as pinnipeds. This includes seals and sea lions. The walrus is the largest of this group and live in the arctic and subarctic seas. The walrus is very important to the subsistence living of the native peoples of Alaska, Inupiaq s being one of the groups. They are hunted for their food and their ivory. The ivory is used for carving. This beautiful work helps the people make a living. A walrus can weigh as much as two tons. By the age of two, they can already weigh up to 750 pounds. The rings in the cross sections of their teeth can actually determine their age. Some can live to about 40 years old, but this is rare because of hunting. The walrus can be dangerous. Umiaks (skin boats made >from walrus skin) are the traditional boat of the Native people. The walrus usually are living on the ice floes. When the hunters approach, walrus's have been known to tear the boats. The people then pull the Umiaks onto another ice floe to repair the boat with walrus skin.
They are a powerful animal and an integral part of Inupiaq culture, tradition, and history. We have found walrus skulls as we excavate. We are looking to see if they are pointing to the sea. We are also trying to observe if there is a circle of walrus skulls as we excavate. This could mean something important to the villagers. This could also mean something very important to the archaeology. Why are they like this? What could it mean? There has only been one recording of a circle of skulls. We are finding many skulls at TEL 079. Hopefully in the coming months, there will be an explanation. Whatever it is, I think it is pretty fascinating.
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