Welcome Back! In the brilliant tradition started by a certain Mr. David Groves, the blog documenting all the thrilling ups and downs of the 2007 NOCUSO Field School excavations at the Yli-Ii river near Oulu, Finland, will be continued this year.
The main goal of excavations this year is to test a proposed model of social evolution for the Yli-Ii river area. This model was covered in the very first post of this blog last year, so if you haven't already read the blog several times over, you should get on that, it will help, but for you lazy people who want to keep the reading to a minimum, here's the story in a nutshell. From 7000 to 3500 years BP (and even up to 1500 years BP at the Thing's smelting pit) in the Yli-Ii river area the land was rising (because of isostatic rebound) faster than the sea level was rising, so the sea level lowered and the coast got further and further out over time. These coast lines correspond very well with settlement patterns throughout the time period in question. So the model thus far is of increasing economic specialization, social complexity, and an increasingly integrated community, over time throughout the area.
The first week here at Oulu University (May 3rd to May 10th) included lectures and several visits to the site. The lectures provided us with some essential background information pertaining to the prehistory of the Yli-Ii river, and the model of temporal social evolution throughout the area as theorized by Dr. Andre Costopoulos (the most metal of all archaeologists). The visits to the site were to determine what was going to be excavated this year, to orient us, and give us a crash course in locating dwelling depressions. It was decided that three separate excavations were to occur at the site this year!
The first trench to be thrown down is at a dwelling depression at KKN (what this abbreviation actually means will be in a later post, simply because I don't remember what it is right now). The purpose of this trench is to provide more evidence to support the model, as it sits in the middle of the chronology of the area (around 5500 years BP) and thus should be a one hearthed dwelling with a wide range of finds, as in no economic specialization yet. The second is at the Thing, which as you may remember from last year contained what seemed to an iron smelting pit, complete with piles of slag! Now there were two depressions on top of the platform at the thing and only one was excavated last year, so the second one will be excavated this year. The third trench is at a higher elevation, and remember in this context that means older (though carbon dates will still be needed to prove the dates of finds). This third trench is of several small depressions along the road which were originally recorded as iron age cooking pits. Dr. Costopoulos believes that these are actually the remains of early, very transient, settlement of the area by highly mobile hunter-gatherers. If this is true it would support the model of increasing social complexity and economic specialization in the area, and thus the hope is to find very little in the Pits, because highly mobile hunter-gatherers would not leave very much behind.
So that's the plan.
On Saturday May 10th (yes, archaeologists are hardcore, we work on Saturdays.), we headed up to take off the turf layer of the trenches so that the top layer of humus would be thawed for excavation on Monday the 12th. This was all done pretty easily, we only had to deal with a little bit of turf frozen to the top layer of soil, but that's a reality archaeologists must face when working in northern settings! Here is a single picture (Edit: there are two pictures now, and who knows a whole post dedicated pictures may or may not occur at some point in the future!) I realize that this is a little lame for the moment, but I promise more will follow, once picture coordination between all three trenches is figured out for this year.