Days 15 & 16 – Great-uncles, Elk, and Salmon – Oh My!

Day 15
June 22nd
I am beginning to reconsider archaeology as a career choice.. due to the manual workload.  My back was so sore today.  Every time I would stand up to dump my bucket or get the root clippers, my lower back twinged in pain.  Also, the fingers on my right hand, especially my pinkie, wake up cramped and sore most mornings from troweling.  I think I am developing a callous on the outside of my index finger from the trowel as well.  Nearly everyone else is complaining of back pain and general fatigue of body and mind as well.  A massage circle sounds really good right now.
Aches, pains, and gripes aside, I mostly finished excavating the podzol from 68E 153N.  I have an island stronghold of Stratum III-3 on top of humic layer with a podzol moat left in one spot.  No artifacts for me today, but Mike found a quartzite flake and Rachel found a scraper or other tool of some sort.
I helped Petra make breakfast for dinner (French toast, “Red Flannel” hashbrowns, fruit salad, and sausage) which was as yummy as anticipated.  Then Max gave a short presentation on his thesis work: 3-D modelling pithouses to examine lighting and its implications.  As they were typically winter dwellings, the pithouses were pretty dang dark inside most of the time.

Day 16
June 23rd
4:50 p.m.
On the Road to Nelson
I found something….an elk pelvis!   I didn’t realize that it was bone as I was digging because only the corner was clearly exposed.  A rock sat nestled in the center as well.  When I went to map it, I asked Emily if she thought it was a rock (but it seemed too soft and made the wrong noise when tapped with a trowel) or wood (but it seemed too hard, though I guessed it might be petrified and brought up by newer trees).  The all-knowing TA was also stumped.  Mike suggested bone, but we all thought it was too good to be true.  However, when Nathan passed by, we caught him.  Soon, he asked for Molly (being our resident faunal geek) and sent everyone away from the pit because he thought it could be human.  Human bone would essentially stop the excavation in the block.  Thankfully, it was too big to be human.  After considering moose, caribou, and bear as well, we settled on elk as the most likely animal, though we can’t be sure until the bone is examined by a faunal specialist in the lab.  Since there were also large rocks near the bone, we excavated more around before finally removing the bone.
Meanwhile, it was thundering dramatically and spitting rain occasionally.  We ended up constructing a makeshift tent by stringing up a tarp between trees to keep the bone excavation dry.  It was quite an exercise in DIY!  We had to tie one side to a rock in order to make the tarp drain outside of the block and not fly up like a parachute.
Molly’s group as found two large tools that may be scrapers.  I increasingly believe that their pithouse was specifically for tool production.  Max’s group is finding mostly features but they also uncovered an actual burnt post beam which was very exciting.
Cont. on June 24th
Emily’s great-uncle Jim arrived this afternoon to stay with us for a few days.  After excavation, we went to a restaurant called the Yellow Deli for dinner in Nelson.  It is run and owned by a community called The Twelve Tribes which is a world-wide, Christian-like group dedicated to loving neighbors, living according to God’s word, and growing food on farms to share among themselves and the greater community.  Interestingly, their restaurant is open 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday.  One of our servers was from upstate New York!
Then we went to the Treaty Talks presentation.  The talk consisted of a short documentary on a journey up the Columbia River from the mouth in Washington to the headwaters in British Columbia in canoes.  It is a very cool and interesting video paralleling the canoe trip with the seasonal journey of salmon, which was now been blocked by dams, particularly Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee Dams.  The video can be found online (, and I highly recommend checking it out when you have a free half hour.  Following the video, two members of UCUT (Upper Columbia United Tribes) gave a short talk on their efforts to push ecosystem management, especially for salmon, in the re-negotiation of the Columbia River Treaty between the U.S. and Canada which will expire in ten years.  They discussed reasons for and ways to open the dams for salmon to move up and down river.  One option, called the Whoosh system, essentially air-propels salmon through a flexible shoot, giving them the roller coaster ride of their lives!

If you’d like to learn more about UCUT, please visit their website at  You can also learn more about Voyages of Rediscovery, the group who created the Treaty Talks video, at

The elk (?) pelvis.  Yes, it is pretty big. Photo credit: Mike

The elk (?) pelvis. Yes, it is pretty big.
Photo credit: Mike

Nathan working on uncovering the pelvis with a brush. Photo credit: Mike

Nathan working on uncovering the pelvis with a brush.
Photo credit: Mike

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