Seasonal Hunting Family Sequence Of Activities (2)

Major northern water crossings of the KjNb and KkLn site series.

A. You arrive from treeline and erect a tent at either one of theKjNborKkLn-4sites using hide covers and spruce poles your dogs have carried north. Women carry dried meat. Men carry little so they can hunt along the way. There is a sequence of activities that you can learn by projecting yourself into the hunting camp situation. Further, you are not going to do your tasks haphazardly. If you’re a woman, you’re not going to scrape hides beside a fire because of flying embers. Nor will you or your children sit next to a husband who is making quartzite tools because of razor-sharp flying chips thrown by his hammerstone.

For pattern examination look for artifact voids because they may be places where activities occurred. If you find a knife cluster rather than a circle or oval surrounding a void, are the knives broken transversely and unworn, suggesting tool-making? If so, we add flakes, cores and hammerstones to our scatter graph because they all are tool-making artifacts and fit the cluster. If you find an arc or line of knives beside an artifact void, are they worn or diagonally broken from butchering? Confirm by adding related items like bone or worked or retouched flakes (essentially micro-knives) to see if they complete your pattern. Then test for scraper pattern to see if where hides were worked. Add related chithos (round sandstone abraders for softening hides by pulling them over their rough circumference).  Where you find hide softeners (smoother than scrapers or chithos and usually a highly worn end of a biface), awls and needles (for piercing) are areas where hides were made into clothing, mocassins and tent covers.

As your first act arriving at the tundra water-crossing is erecting a tent as protection against weather and insects, you proceed to your favorite 3-4 meter round flat space, keeping in mind that you have relatives and friends doing the same in their own spots. As you only need stakes or sand on the base of the tent wall to prevent the wind from lifting it, you will not need river cobbles to form stone rings. In the absence of stone rings in Chipewyan camps, look for fur trade construction artifacts like nails, canvas scraps and rope. In prehistoric camps, look for stone picks, rocks for tents, piles and alignments (to direct caribou to hunters), general tools, tool handles and wood. As the jerky or pemmican you brought north after spring herd migration will soon be gone, look for copper or bone fish hooks to be used in supplementing the diet with fish until herd arrival in several days to a week.

B. As you have arrived well in advance of the caribou moving south you have time to make and maintain tools to be used in hunting, fishing, snaring, cooking and hide preparation. As you do these tasks you are asked to participate in a group to maximize the upcoming caribou harvest to ensure a continuous supply of dried meat until autumn. When the herd is spotted from the overlook at the Narrows some 7 km NE of the KjNb sites your group is activated, fires extinguished, fishing ceased and noisy children quieted. Before the herd advances to cross the river, women and older children who have been making and setting hundreds of hide or skin snares in the ravines beside camp, now hide in the willows several hundred meters downriver from where the herd will cross. This is done so lanced caribou floating downriver can be pulled ashore for processing directly on shore. While the herd is crossing the river, several canoists (look for birch bark) drift silently downstream to force its rear across the river towards the lancers and snares.

C. While hundreds of caribou are snared in the ravines or lanced in the water and floating downriver, women and older children dispatch the animals and bring them ashore, while hunters dispatch those caught in snares. Rather than carry several tons of meat to camp, they process carcasses on the shore to cool the meat by slitting carcasses from neck to rectum with a knife. Collect blood in a birch bark container for later stews, then remove liver, stomach, intestines, lungs, heart and kidneys, with some snacking on raw liver and kidney and back fat. Skin the animal and throw most of the fly-damaged hide and unwanted carcass parts and offal in the river to be carried downstream away from camp, so as not too attract wolves and grizzlies. You have little problem with wolves, but in the absence of dogs, people were known to move camp if a grizzly came. Tie dogs to stakes or rocks to keep them from the meat and deter predators at night.


Now your most pressing duty is removing meat from bone with a knife, tearing it in strips with the grain and drying it on rocks and willows along the river. In several weeks, you can carry it south at one-tenth of its normal weight; i.e., a woman could carry the meat of a half dozen or more caribou. This monumental task of making jerky was interspersed with carrying internal organs, leg bones with adhering meat and the head for immediate cooking and consumption above the riverbank and some 100 m distant at the hearth.

Hearth remains include unburnt wood, charcoal and burnt soil and sand. Near the hearth, hooves and lower legs (astragalus, calcaneus, phalange) are removed with a heavy chopper. The liver and kidneys and their fat provided quick energy, while long bones were fragmented with a hammerstone and placed in a birch bark container or raw hide. This contained water that was boiled using red hot rocks from the fire. Some rocks explode when hitting the water, resulting in fire-cracked rock (fcr). In a skin or bark container, collect the grease floating on the surface, leaving long bone fragments lbf, bone and bone powder at the bottom. If you get hungry performing these tasks, remove the tongue by drawing it out below the lower jaw. It and the eyeballs were immediate delicacies, as was the head cooked over the fire until the hide burned away. Its flesh was eaten directly while the brain was removed through the broken skull just behind the antlers. Set aside the stomach and its contents for fermentation over a slow fire, partly digesting vegetal contents for vitamin consumption and leaving a residue of twigs, buds and seeds.

The huge number of slaughtered caribou necessitated some hideless carcasses to be taken to camp. In camp, place each in turn on a relatively flat surface and sever the upper limbs with a knife. Even here, the many carcasses butchered on the same spot result in a 2 meter ovoid ring of discarded or lost knives. Split the ribs from the backbone using a chopper and pile as units for roasting on a pan or rock slab. Set aside for later or for others to do the task. Separate pelvis from backbone and strip away all meat and pile it. As you carry more carcasses from the river, check to see if dogs remain on their leash and for predators. You will have several weeks to dry the meat by continually turning it in the wind. Meanwhile, camp activities will consume the rest of your time.

D. Hearth-related activities are easier to spot than others because you have a central spot surrounded by many tools of different types. Your first task is to determine what type of hearth it is, because hearths may be used for simply warmth, socializing, insect protection, cooking or tool-preparation. Cooking hearths will have fire-cracked rock and calcined bone. Tool-making hearths will have broken arrow or spear points where hunters came to replace them by dipping them with their shafts in water to soften the blood glue binding their sinew with gentle heat. The valuable sinew is unwound, a new point inserted in the split shaft and the sinew rewound, gluing it with fresh caribou blood and sealing the glue over the flame. Warming, insect protective or socializing hearths may have no artifacts at all. Alternately, you may find all the artifacts usually associated with a hearth but no visible hearth because cinders have blown away in the strong northwest wind. In these latter cases, examine the levels above and below to see if they have hearths in the same spots.

E. KkLn-4 is an unusual site because it is constricted north-south between the Dubawnt River and the steep side of a huge esker knob called Hawk-Eye Hill by Samuel Hearne in 1770. Its artifacts are also unusual, not only because of the many basalt adze flakes mentioned earlier, but also its overall artifact inventory. Of 1489 artifacts, 789 are common or retouched flakes. These are usually associated with cores and hammerstones and, indeed, 116 and 12 of each occur, respectively. Whether cores were used to make knives or scrapers or both, remains unproven, but 163 knives and 93 scrapers occur. Overall, KkLn-4 appears to be a stone tool manufacturing workshop, but each level must be analyzed independently.


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