Alaska


We are situated on a bend of the Tanana River that still sports a little shelf of ice near the highway underpass, and the first thing a visitor would think upon discovering our field camp is, how did a bunch of hobos manage to squat in such an exposed front yard?  Technically, we are camping.  However, after the first lithics and faunal remains were discovered at the Mead Site a few years ago, a University of Wisconsin researcher bought the property and built a log cabin on it, which now provides the space for our lab and movie nights.  So now there are more than a dozen multicolored tents interspersed with mounds of moose poop by Dr. Barbara Krass’s spruce forest.

Our peeps are divided into groups A, B, and C, each being assigned to a particular area by the bluff edge and led by graduate students from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.  They have diverse interests–Phoebe’s into geoarchaeology, Gilbert’s studying ancient shamanism, and Randy does survey work with flint knapping on the side.  Mead is a multicomponent site that might date back to the fourth cultural zone of Beringia, around 14,000 BP, so faunal and lithics are the mainstay of the researchers, and people identify as stoners or boners.  We have to go now…look forward to getting down to 55 cm BS tomorrow, hopefully some nice jasper flakes!

–Tiffany Tsai

Two days ago, I was eating a bag of Cheetos in the cook tent and noticed that each time I wiped my mouth with a napkin it left chocolaty smears on the paper.  It wasn’t the radioactive orange you usually get from dyed cheese–I wondered if being in the sun all day had blurred my vision, since there wasn’t a chocolate bar within 20 miles of our camp site.  Wiping away a fleck of Cheeto that had landed on my backpack, I noticed the same Munsell shade of brown coming off the cloth and realized that my entire face was covered in a patina of dirt.  Chatting with my pit neighbors, I had forgotten to watch the wind direction while screening my buckets of loess!  It being the fifth day I had rooted around in dirt for eight hours, though, nobody really remembered what I looked like originally and didn’t think to point out the grime around my lips.  They were as dirty as I was.

Yesterday, Saturday, was a big day: We had our first shower of the week!  All 23 of us piled into University of Alaska vans and drove to the nearest town, Delta Junction, where there were RV parks with laundry machines, flush toilets, and showers.  It was glorious.  This morning I woke up with a headful of individual glossy black strands, not Twizzler-like clumps, and had to muss it around several times just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming the miraculous 10 minutes of running water each of us had witnessed yesterday.

Now we are sitting in front of the Delta community library and using the free wireless.  Everything is closed because it’s Memorial Day weekend.  My power is about to run out so more later!

–Tiffany Tsai