Monday, July 21, 2014

Little Cornwallis Island, NWT 1994

Not long after arriving in the field a few weeks ago, I received a surprise e-mail with a motion blurred photo of me attempting to juggle (right).  The picture was taken in 1994 on Little Cornwallis Island in what is now Nunavut, although it was still part of the Northwest Territories at the time.  I was 19 in the picture and this was my very first field season in the Arctic.  We were excavating Late Dorset sites and I kept a journal, but I didn't have a camera with me.  Another student, Hugh, was an avid photographer and took several rolls of photos during the season.  I hadn't heard from Hugh in more than a decade, but when I thanked him for sending the first photo, he sent me a folder packed with images from the summer.  He said I could share them here, so here are the first few...

According to the date on the board, this photo was taken on July 7, 1994 - just over 20 years ago.  It shows a Late Dorset house prior to excavating.  One of the first artifacts that I found was a little ivory harpoon head, similar to the one in the last photo below.  I didn't realize at the time how exceptional tiny organic artifacts like that are.  I don't think I've found one since.

The project was support by the Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP) out of Resolute Bay.  If my memory is correct, it took two twin otter flights to carry all of our gear and personnel from Cornwallis Island to nearby Little Cornwallis Island. 

Following the excavation, Bjarne reconstructed the mid-passage and erected a couple of whalebone uprights to give a sense of the internal area of the dwelling.  You can see the different compartments and work areas inside the mid-passage, the slight inner depression where Bjrane is sitting and the raised gravel berm circling the structure in place of rocks to weigh down the edges of the skin covering that would have been draped over the whalebone and driftwood internal supports.
In the 1994 High Arctic Archaeology fashion show, one of us took home the medal for "Best-Dressed" and one of us went home with the "Most Embarrassing Wardrobe" ribbon.  I forget which one I got - I'll have to check my ribbon when I get home.

If my memory serves - these pieces along with several other organic artifacts were found melting out of a snowbank in the final days of the project.  Again, I thought finding artifacts like this was routine at the time.  But I've never seen anything like that again.

 Photo Credits: Hugh G.

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