Professor discusses recent work unearthing ancient artifacts at a Northwest Coast wet site

Anthropology Professor Dale Croes gave a presentation on campus in late November about his assistance in uncovering several unique artifacts while also crossing Kilgii Gwaay off his personal bucket list.

Croes’ bucket list included only three sites: Ozette, Sunken Village and Kilgii Gwaay.

Last summer, Croes was offered the opportunity to work at Kilgii Gwaay.

The site had been flooding previously which provided the ultimate form of preservation for the artifacts.

The most important discovery at Kilgii Gwaay was a tiny braided string that could have been used for clothing. This string was the prize piece because it is completely unique.

They also found textiles made of Spruce root, many bone and stone pieces, wood wedges and wood stakes. The stakes were used as racks to hang bear and other types of meat.

Though no full baskets were found, strips of wood indicated a lot of basket making.

A vital factor of the discoveries was the collaboration with the Native Americans whose land the sites were located on. By working together, the Native Americans learned, along with the archeologists, details of their history, and the scientists gained valuable insight about the different cultures that helped them identify the items they unearthed.

When working at Ozette, Croes and his colleagues helped excavate a village that had been covered with a mudslide 500 years ago. The excavation only included about 10 percent of the total village, but provided insight into the lives of the Makah people through the findings of canoes, whale bones displayed as trophies, textiles and a very unique piece of art featuring a Thunderbird design made out of otter teeth.

The part of Ozette that Croes is most interested in, though, is located underneath this site as a village covered 800 years ago in another mudslide that then provided the foundation for the new village. Such an endeavor as this would require a lot of planning and is not currently in the works.

The Sunken Village proved to have similar artifacts with minor differences showing distinguishing factors between the two cultures. This team found immense gill nets, pack baskets reminiscent of the utilitarian style baskets found at Ozette.

Sunken Village was awarded its name because of the various holes found along the beach.

After research, the team determined that the holes were leaching pits to get the acid out of acorns. The system was perfect because that section of the beach already had natural water running under ground.

President of the Anthropology Club, Tracey Arnold attended the presentation of Croes to show support for the professor as a former student.

Student John Kingsbury came to the presentation out of pure interest. Though not currently studying archeology, a past encounter at a museum with a similar topic prompted him to attend the talk.