The students are especially excited about their archaeology excavation behind our school, Foothills Academy in Wheat Ridge. So far they have found a pair of glasses, bits of old bottles and pottery, rusty chunks of metal and several old marbles. We have discussed how far back in the history of the area these artifacts go. Lauren is desperate to find something horse-related!
Foothills Academy third graders work hard in their archaeology excavation behind the school. Just like professional archaeologists, Matthew and Aliya carefully examine the items in their screen to make sure none are cultural or made by people.
The dig will wrap up next week and we’ll analyze our finds before presenting them to another group of students on campus. First they will analyze their finds and make...
During our tour through 45-million years of Jurassic and Cretaceous Colorado history, we spotted this lumbering stegosaurus! The kids piled out to meet a bronze friend at the Dinosaur Ridge visitors center.
What a great week at Foothills Academy! It's only our second week back after the summer but we already did some field work to tour 45-million years of Colorado history from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods and started an archaeology excavation behind the classroom!
The students work in their field crews to set up the grids for their 5-unit excavation behind our school, Foothills Academy, on Wednesday. Each team will excavate a one-meter-square unit - just like real archaeologists do!
On the dig, students are working in field crews of 4 sharing a meter-square unit, which is...
Ahhhhh! I'm home and well-rested after the long journey from Alaska. I'm typing in the kitchen while little baby Holt plays with a rattle in the next room. I just finished a bowl of cereal with fresh strawberries - yum! It's good to be back. I haven't had to put on mosquito repellent for 5 days!
Here's little Holt, happy to have Daddy back form Alaska. Actually, I think mom is even more happy to have some help again!
What an adventure it was. I've been telling everyone about the helicopter and flight suits, the grizzlies, moose and musk ox we saw, the seal meat we ate with Stanley from Kivalina and of course, the 11,500-year-old artifacts we carefully excavated. I can't wait to share this experience with the students. I have a big collection of goodies for them to get their hands on -...
Here I am preparing for the radio interview on KOTZ 720 a.m. this morning. Right before my interview, the DJ read the Mini Tundra Telegraph which is local news updates for the 11 nearby Inupiat villages.
The radio interview went great! The first DJ I met this morning, Bob, wasn't sure what interview I was there for, but then another DJ came - Johnson - and he was game to do it as planned. We chatted for more than 30 minutes and went through a nice description of the project. Johnson asked a great question. He said, "We've seen a lot of archaeologists come through, but we never see the artifacts they collect. Where do they go?" I told him they probably go to the lab for analysis, but we agreed local people should get the chance to see the artifacts that come from their region. The radio...
Great news from the dig site: They have found another fluted point base!
This is not the point the team recently found - it's a bifacial tool which was found at the site in previous years. I don't have photos of the tool they found so this is a stand in. But who knows, maybe the same person made both tools?
Bill called the bunkhouse in Kotzebue to give me the update from camp. His voice sounded different over the satellite phone but I could hear the excitement in his voice. Apparently Jess found it in the screen and it looks a lot like the one they found last year. It's made of gray chert.
Here is a fluted point found at the site last week while I was still at the dig. See the grooves coming up the face of the tool from the bottom? Those are the flutes.
Fluting, remember, is the long...
I had plenty of down time today in Kotzebue, where I am resting and preparing for my radio interview. After getting up with the team at 7 a.m. each day for the last two weeks and then working hard all day, I went ahead and slept in this morning. It felt so good! Luckily Steve from the BLM supplied the Kotzebue bunkhouse where I am staying with plenty of food. I had a breakfast of cereal and tea and started on my TO-DO list.
Here is the KOTZ radio station in Kotzebue where I'll have an interview about the expedition on July 2nd. It's a great community resource where folks get their news and spread the word about local events.
First off, I wanted to go check in at the radio station and make sure everything was still looking good. KOTZ radio plays on 720 a.m. here in Kotzebue. I walked...
We were fogged in this morning so we couldn't fly. I had scrambled to pack my bags, tear down the wet tent, roll up the sleeping pad (I was sad to see my platform of comfort go), and then the bags just sat there. That's OK, it gave Ian and I a chance to go up on the hill one last time to say goodbye to the crew.
Because we had a flight delay due to fog this morning, Ian and I had the chance to go up to the dig site and say goodbye one last time to the team. Ines from Germany had taken over my little corner of the excavation at the bottom left. After days of sunshine, they were back to the warm clothes we started in 10 days ago.
Ines had taken over my little corner - Unit 8. She was burrowing down in the southwest quadrant and had a big smile as always. Craig, the public affairs guy,...
Just when I sat down in one of the big yellow tents to download some photos, the pilot Stan camp opened the door to reveal bright sunlight burning through the fog. We could fly!
Our expedition leader Bill Hedman gave me a firm hand shake just before we boarded the helicopter to fly out of the site. What a great trip! Thanks so much for including me in this expedition, Bill! I can't wait to share what I've learned with the students!
Bill Hedman, leader of the whole expedition, gave us a personal send off, making the safety calls with the satellite phone as we put on our flights suits and emergency vests. The Bureau of Land Management really does everything in their power to keep us safe. We thanked Bill for including us in this incredible experience and climbed into the aircraft....
Here is a picture of our team lined up for a photo on my last night. Pictured from back row, left, are: Courtney (cook), Stan (pilot), Stephan (German archaeology student), Bill Hedman (expedition leader), Darrel (geologist), Gerad (archaeology student), Ian (archaeology instructor), me, (front row from left) Craig McCaa (BLM office of public affairs), Ines (German archaeology student), Dr. Jeff Rasic (head of excavation) and Jess (archaeology student). Unfortunately Steve - our camp manager and main go-to guy - was out fishing during the photo.
I can't believe it but this is my last night in camp. The expedition has gone so quickly! I'll fly in the helicopter tomorrow morning from our camp by the Kivalina River out to the Red Dog Mine, and then from there in a Cessna airplane to...
This is an example of a microblade - a tiny flint knapped stone tool. I was excited to find two of these today in my corner of our excavation 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska.
I found my first biface today! It's a beautiful green chert point almost two inches tall. It's been carefully worked on both sides (most of the flakes we find are only chipped on one side) and it even has little chips along the edge where someone once sharpened it. Actually, according to Dr. Jeff Rasic - head of the excavation - it's a "manufacturing reject" which was a "pre-form" until it broke and was thrown away. Also, it doesn't seem very old because it wasn't found very deep. But I still think it's an incredible piece!
Today was such a big day for me - my best day of archaeology yet. I also...
This is the nice bifacial tool or point Dr. Jeff Rasic found today. Ines from Germany found another which had lost its tip.
We found some beautiful artifacts today. There were five of us digging in the big L-shaped unit and finding evidence of ancient tool makers. Ines found a bifacial tool (a stone tool that was shaped on both sides instead of only one) which had broken and lost its tip and base. It's a large dark-colored scraper you could hold in your hand. Ten-thousand years ago or more, it may have been an important tool for a family preparing hides for clothes to keep them warm in winter. Who was the last person to touch it before Ines in the year 2010?
Later, Dr. Rasic found another bifacial point and this one had the tip intact! It's quite rare to find a complete projectile...
Check out the amazing view from high in the peaks above our remote camp. In the valley below, follow the river a way and then there are two small humps on the right side of the river. Those are Raven Bluff where we are digging. Look closely to see our yellow tents to the left of those.
Today I got to try excavating in our largest hole, and later we climbed a tall peak near camp. There was a commanding view from the top looking out over the sweeping green valleys.
But before I tell you about the climb, let me tell you about the excavation. Up until now I have been mostly washing and sorting the artifacts excavated by the archaeologists, but today I was given the chance to dig. There was a section of the hole which had been dug in earlier years and had been filled back in. My job was to...
Here is the little red R-44 helicopter we use to get to our remote site and to do survey work from the site. It's a great helicopter that can haul all our gear - although we have to take a little bit at a time. Stan Hermens, the pilot, has years of experience.
Today was a great day for flying with sunny skies and no rain so Bill decided we should take the whirlybird up to have a look around. This is called survey work. Bill goes searching for places that have pre-historic sites on them. Usually he's looking for flakes from ancient tool makers or depressions in the ground left by old homes. In fact, it was during survey work back in 2007 that he discovered our current dig site, Raven Bluff.
The researchers refer to the helicopter as 'the ship.' At the dinner table they might say, 'Are...
Today the students are going to explain a few of the terms they have learned during their stay at the archaeology camp. After they define these new words, they will describe what they did today:
Bering Land Bridge:
Its a land that people walked through to get from Siberia to Alaska. Scientists think that mammoth and bison crossed the land to get to Alaska, too.
The land under the Bering Sea which our ancestors used to cross to America.
A solid, sharp rock used for making knives, ulus and arrowheads by our ancestors, today people use steel to make knives and ulus.
A Fluted Point is an arrowhead with a groove that archaeology people get really excited about.
The students are now going to write their blog entries about today, July 24, 2010.
Glory be, we awoke to a gorgeous sunny day without a single cloud. Sunlight is shimmering on the river and green hills are all around under a canopy of endless blue.
The archaeologists are very excited about the prospects for today. Bill turned on some music in the breakfast tent and then went up to the dig site first thing to get a handle on things. I'm hoping later he'll have a chance to work with the girls on a dig.
The girls are still sleeping - I think they have a different schedule in Kivalina. But once they're up we'll go do some archaeology under these beautiful sunny skies.
This morning the sunshine made everyone cheery. Most mornings we awake to the patter of rain on our tents and wrestle our way back into our rain gear but today was nice a dry. We all stood outside in the...
The visitors have arrived! Tia and Jackie came first and they have stayed all day. Stanley came too and fed us some of his seal blubber and meat for lunch. He had so many amazing stories to tell! He had to leave already but Jackie and Tia are still here. In fact, Jackie and Tia wanted to write in the blog. Here they are. The first one is from Jackie:
Jackie: Hi my name is Jackie, I'm a visitor from Kivalina. Today when the helicopter went to fly in and to get us I felt a little scared but then I realized that it was getting more fun. When we got here to Raven Bluff I was excited to get off and explore a lot of things I never knew about. After we flew in we got settled in and got a snack, we went up a little hill to the archaeology people. We learned about some stuff back in the ancient...
We are so excited to have our native visitors from the village of Kivalina. The helicopter just left to go pick them up. I called the village on the satellite phone and spoke with Stanley, the elder who is coming and Tia, one of the two students.
Bill helped me set up a nice Northface VE-25 four-season tent for the students. Inside are two comfortable Thermarest sleeping pads and two brand new sleeping bags. The students will be the first people to use them.
Here is the Northface four-season tent we set up for the students. This is a really rugged tent that wouldn't be out of place in a base camp on Mt. Everest! Hopefully it will keep them warm. The researchers just came back from the excavation shaking with cold. They say it's very close to snowing up there!
We made this comfortable...
Who were the people who left these tiny flakes of stone? Did they sew animal skins together to make clothing? Did they hunt the 15-foot-tall wooly mammoth or were those extinct already? Did they realize they had entered a totally unexplored continent which extended south into a hemisphere no people had ever seen? We have learned a lot already on this trip but it's funny how answers lead to more questions.
Because of driving rain this morning we waited until after lunch to go up to the dig. After lunch we went up there and started working, finding a few flakes and a tiny microblade. Soon, however, the rain returned and made screening too difficult with the muddy soil. There was a good chance we could lose artifacts so we opted to stop the excavation for today.
Instead, we went for a walk...
DEET is the super-strong bug repellant we use. You can get 30 percent DEET, which works well, but 100 percent DEET is the strongest. It will melt the plastic off your Swiss Army knife! Usually we have to apply DEET every few hours but not today. There were no mosquitoes bothering us this entire day - it was wonderful. The trade-off was the cold windy drizzle that blew them away. Well, we were well prepared with green Helly Hansen rain suits and layers of cozy fleece underneath.
The day started with a marathon tech call to Martin in Menlo Park, California, who was helping me send email over the sat phone. This photo is proof that he was successful - we did it! Pictures can be sent over the satellite phone!
Up on the ridge the archaeologists braved the wet wind to continue their...
Stan Hermens of Hermens Helicopters shows us how to board his aircraft on the runway at the Red dog Mine. We flew there in a Cessna 208 Caravan. Stan flew us in pairs out to our remote dig site from Red Dog. The view from the front seat of a helicopter is incredible because the whole nose is see-through. It's not like peeking through the little windows on a jet airliner. Wow!
I was full of nervous anticipation as I climbed into the tiny helicopter. The door frame seemed so fragile and the nose so small and close to my feet. I hoped it would hold me. The blades were whirring above us and the whole thing started to shake. Suddenly the gravel in front of us started to drop away and we lifted 50 feet and kept climbing. We were airborne!
The day started back in Kotzebue where packed up our...
See all the light-tan colored area? That's where the Bering Land Bridge was between what it is now Alaska and Russia. All of that area would have been above sea level. It wasn't just a thin peninsula, it was a vast area for those early settlers to explore and hunt on. As you can imagine, many of their sites were submerged by the rising sea waters. Researchers believe that many of the sites we have today were used only as temporary hunting sites and that many more permanent sites were submerged.
This is it, the last night before we fly out to the remote archaeological dig site. We are flying out about 30 miles northeast of the village of Kivalina, on the coast of northwest Alaska between Point Hope and Kotzebue. It's been a nice stay in Kotzebue, but we are ready to go into the field. To...
Here is an aerial view of Kotzebue, Alaska, located about 3 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Kotzebue has about 3,000 people. As you can see, it's located on a peninsula. To the left or west is the Chukchi Sea which connects to the Bering Sea wich leads to Russia.
Today Ian and I hiked out of town to get a look around. We wandered out the main road which apparently dead ends out in the tundra because you can't really drive anywhere from Kotzebue - you have to fly or go by boat. A new summer camp is starting tomorrow and all the local kids are arriving either by commercial flights, small bush planes or coming in family boats across the water. You can see in the aerial photo that Kotzebue is on a peninsula. Folks use interesting vehicles to get around out here. We saw this unique, orange...
Through a cold, gray drizzle we landed in Kotzebue this afternoon, about 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle. One of the archaeologists, Ian from Oregon, and I met our BLM contact John Erlich at the airport. He drove us to our BLM house and also to the grocery store. Ian almost fell down when he saw the price of groceries. A gallon of milk can cost $13! I bought some potatoes and an onion to pan fry. They were not too expensive.
Here's the sign right next to the airport in Kotzebue, Alaska. This town is about 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle. I thought it was a little chilly, but locals were zipping around on 4-wheelers in shorts!
We put on our rain coats and went for a walk, exploring the town. It has about 3,200 people, most of whom are native Alaskans. Despite the drizzle, teens...
Today's training started with bear awareness. We learned that most bears will leave the area before people even know they are there. We also learned the major differences between black bears and grizzlies. Black bears evolved in the forest so they tend to flee into the trees when they feel threatened. Grizzlies evolved in open areas so they tend to aggressively defend their personal space - especially if it's a sow (mom) with cubs. We don't expect to see polar bears at our inland site.
Ines, a German archaeology student from Cologne, is practicing spraying a bear spray pepper can. I think this one was past its expiration date because it wasn't very strong pepper.
The instructor told us to make noise as we hike so bears aren't surprised by us. If we see a bear that hasn't seen us, we...
Dr. Jeff Rasic - one of the two lead archaeologist on our expedition - sent this picture of his boy Jack flint knapping. Knapping is the term for chipping away at obsidian or flint to make tools such as arrowheads or spear heads. Rasic flint knaps to see if he can figure out how the ancient tools he finds were made. I bought an old archaeology text book from Powell's in Portland last week so I could try to learn some of what is going on around me. The book describes this kind of thing as "experimental archaeology." Another example is using obsidian blades to skin large mammals in order to see how the tools worked for ancient people. I'm excited to try making obsidian tools with my students when I return from Alaska (but nervous about how sharp the edges get).
Actually, it's obsidian...
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