10 July, 1998
07/10/98 First Day of Digging in Deering
*** Cape Smyth Air Beechcraft 99 with 9 seats - Barrow to Wainwright to Point Lay to Point Hope to Kotzebue - change to Bering Air sitting with cases of frozen beef - short trip to Deering - Help unload the frozen food and then hitch a ride into town - drop gear in the street and head straight to the excavation - introductions all around - we are handed trowels and put to work - spectacular finds - set up our gear - 12 A.M. to bed ***
After airport hopping across NW Alaska we arrived in Deering on its gravel airstrip. Deering is beautifully situated on Kotzebue Sound. It has a beautiful sweep of beach, bracketed by sea cliffs and cradled by green hills. It is no wonder that people have chosen to occupy this place for over 1000 years. As soon as we arrived in Deering we went straight to the excavation site. The team has been digging for only a few days and already they have uncovered a lot of human remains and artifacts. The quality of the finds by everybody's accounts is unbelievable. Within just a short time I had unearthed a beautiful ivory dart point. Ryan Peterson, a cultural resource specialist, and one of the dig's Forman identified my find. Aaron found a preform of an antler arrow head. The highlight of the day was when Forman and lithic specialist Kristen Wenzel found what appears to be a portion of an ivory mask reminiscent of the one that caused such a stir last year. Less than an hour later Kristen found what appears to be a bone carving of a face (unbelievable!). The whole community seems to be involved in this project. The Mayor, his wife and children, elders, and kids from all over town all gather around the dig and visit the lab. Dinner is canned spaghetti and leftovers with the whole crew, Aaron, myself, Kristen, and Ryan along with Betty Kinneeveauk Smith, Randy Peterson and Rick Reanier. Betty is a Technician, Conservator, Business Manager and about everything else. Randy is the chief conservator and a "jack of all trades". Rick is the project supervisor and the glue that holds the operation together.
Randy, Ryan, Aaron and I cleaned out an old storeroom for a place to stay. Tomorrow Aaron and I are excavating full time and we can't wait. After today's finds expectations are running high.
After airport hopping down Alaska's North Slope, I believe that Deering is the most gorgeous of all the towns. It is situated in a fantastic spot, with rolling hills, a beautiful beach, and prominent bluffs on either side of the town. The sun sparkles off the river behind the town and makes you wonder why this place doesn't receive as much press as other North Slope towns.
Meeting the other members of the excavation has kept true to form with all those we've met so far. Everyone has been very kind and supportive of a pair of New Yorkers tagging along on a world class archaeological excavation, and I sincerely appreciate it. Tim already mentioned their names, so I won't reiterate, but they are a joy to be around.
As soon as we arrived we were rushed to the site and started digging. Within fifteen minutes, Tim made an amazing find. It was an artifact that, to quote Ryan Peterson, Tim "should not have found that on his first day." It was great fun.
We went to sleep at midnight; this twenty-one hour sunlight is really starting to affect my sleeping patterns.
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