Old Dirt – New Thoughts

October 26, 2006

Finds of the Week

Filed under: Aniakchak,Artifacts,Lithics @ 3:14 am and

My archaeology lab class has been busy cataloging these last couple of weeks. They had two artifacts from Aniakchak that I find particularly interesting.

One “find” is a miniature bifacial “point”. It’s even smaller than the one I highlighted from this summer. I’ve seen small points like this one described in archaeological reports as “toys”. I suspect, though, that the Aniakchak miniature points are functional tools because we have so many (and virtually no larger points).

Black chert biface (ANIA 6472) Miniature biface of black chert.

The other find is a piece of copper sheet rolled into a tube. I’m assuming it is a “bead”. We found this bead near the site surface, but I believe it is native copper and from a precontact context.

Rolled copper bead from Aniakchak. Copper bead.

1 Comment »

  1.   Patrick Saltonstall — October 26, 2006 @ 3:01 pm    

    I agree with you on the functional ‘tool’ designation. Usually when I classify an artifact a ‘toy’ it is because it would not have been functional. I’ve found small points made out greywacke that were obviously intended to look like small ground slate points – only greywacke can not be ground to a sharp, functional edge. So these are obviously toys or something used in a ritual.

    I add the latter possibility because another thing here on Kodiak that I have always called toys are minature wood kayaks carved from bark. But Lydia Black corrected me on this – stating that whalers used such models in their hunt rituals. (Alutiiq whalers would create and also recreate a mock hunt with the whale dying to ensure success on a hunt). However, I still believe most of the tiny kayaks we find were toys – the Karluk One site was full of such minature ‘toys’ (toy bows, toy fishing gear, toy drum handles – practically everything). We also found more elaborate, minature exact replica models – some painted red – I suspect that these might have been used in rituals.

    Finally, one ‘toy’ that I have a really hard time deciding upon is minature ulus. Often they look fully functional, and often not. I must admit I vary between calling them toys or ‘sewing’ ulus.

    To get back to your points – I believe they are functional tools exactly because you found so many of them and because you did not find larger ones. It would be interesting to determine what types of sites they turn up at – maybe they were only used for one particular type of hunting?

    Also Chris Donta found prehistoric copper at the Monashka Bay site (set into a bone handle), and I believe Rick Knecht also found some at the Malina Creek site. There are supposedly some copper ore outcrops on Kodiak Island near the shore just inside Sitkalidak Island (I’ve never personally checked them out). But i bet most of the copper we find came from the Copper River.


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