Seasonal Hunting Family Sequence Of Activities (3)

Major southern water crossings KeNi-4 and KdLw-1 sites

A. Arriving atKeNi-4andKdLw-1in September from the tundra and erecting a tent at treeline using hide covers and spruce poles transported by your dogs also involves preselected spots, but this time there are friends and relatives there before you. Again, you build your fire and tent in the same 3-4 m round flat space they left for you. When you left the crossings 100-150 km northeast, the herd had gone ahead to treeline and was ambushed at these sites by these people. Alliances and food sharing are renewed as you share in meat drying. But many tents, hearths and task areas already exist, and we follow your cousin’s activities as (s)he arrived a month or so earlier. You will play the role of your cousin.

Again, you only need stakes or sand on the base of the tent wall to prevent the wind from lifting it. If you’re there after 1750 AD when you left the Barrenlands to become a fur trapper, you have limited construction tools like nails, canvas and rope. Otherwise, you will have 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 also brought north after spring herd migration will soon be gone, you will make and use copper and bone  fish hooks to be used until herd arrival in September. You will also use this camp after the herd has passed because it will stay in the forest for a month or so before returning to the edge of the forest for rut in October. Now, you and your cousin who just arrived from the north will have prime skins, thick pelts from bulls for mocassins, and finer skins for clothing from cows and calves. Unfortunately, bulls have lost all their back fat in the rut and you will despise their meat because it is hormone-tainted. But that’s later and we must consider herd arrival from your cousin’s camp to the north.

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 rut. But this time the herd arrives on dry ground because the lake is behind you and the herd passes your camp before getting to the water-crossing. Then, it is ever more important to be invisible. Your whole hunting technique differs. When the herd is spotted several km away from overlooks near KeNi-4 and KdLw-1, your group is activated, fires extinguished and fishing ceased. As the lack of a water-crossing makes lancing of huge numbers impossible, women and older children make and set many more hide or skin snares in the ravines leading up to camp rather than behind camp. Instead of hiding in river willows, you hide in the trees and small ravines leading to the water crossing. Those animals surviving snaring and ambushing are lanced in the crossing south of camp. Here, the crossing comes into play like the KjNb sites. Several hunters are stationed at the south end of the spit, even though their camp is on the north end.  These hunters will try to lance as many caribou as they can from canoes or by standing in the shallows.  Most of the herd actually run the gauntlet and fan out rapidly after they cross.

C. Men dispatch the many more snared animals while women and children bring lanced animals ashore, at the southern crossing. Again, 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 the raw liver. Skin the animal and throw in the innards for dragging the short distance to the hearths. You have more problem with scavengers because you are in wolf den territory with more grizzlies. Again, tie dogs to stakes or rocks to keep them from the meat and deter predators at night, which begins earlier at 10 PM. Other than snacking on fat and tidbits to maintain your energy, your most pressing duty is stripping meat from bone with a knife, cutting it in strips and drying it on spruce pole meat racks, so it can be combined with dried meat of your cousin, carried south from the KjNb sites. Together you carry your dried meat south to supplement your winter diet.

Near the hearth of wood, charcoal and burnt soil and sand, hooves and lower legs (astragali, calcanii, phalange) are removed with a heavy chopper. The liver and kidneys and their fat provide quick energy, while long bones are fragmented with a hammerstone and placed in a birch bark container or raw hide. This contained water boiled using red hot rocks taken from the fire. Rocks explode when hitting the water, resulting in fire-cracked rock. Floating grease is skimmed off and solidified with cooling and collected in a skin or bark container, leaving long bone fragments, bone and fire-cracked rock. Hides are in much better shape now that the warble fly holes have healed. Much more hide preparation occurs than in the crossings to the north because winter clothes, mocassins and tents must be made. Extract the brain before the head is cooked, so you can use its fats and tannin to tan hides.

The huge number of slaughtered caribou are also almost within camp, so duties can be done much closer together. Camps are much bigger, allowing many hides to dry and be tanned and smoked into leather and fur for winter. Again, select several 2-3 meter areas for each hide. Stretch it and use stakes to hold it. Before it dries, clean its fatty surface with scrapers and soften it with chithos, then turn it over to remove fur from the other side with side scraper or beamer for making leather. Leave it be otherwise. Then smear the dried skin with fresh brains (tannin) and rotted spruce root. Build a small smudge fire, erect a mini-tentlike frame around it and wrap the hide or skin around it, flesh side in. This should occupy a smaller area than that for scraping (ca. 2m2). Allow the smoke out via a tiny tophole and smoke it for several days. Remove the dried brown hide or skin and soften its cardboardlike consistency by bending it around a pole or a chitho. Then use hide softeners or skin flexers to finish the job. They are then rolled for transport south or cut into strips (ropes, nets, snares) or clothing with a knife. Clothing and mocassins are sewn with needles, awls and sinew, bearing in mind that many more are needed in winter.

For butchering, place each carcass 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. Chop the ribs from the backbone using a chopper and pile as units for roasting on a pan or rock slab or directly on a stick. 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 about 1-2 weeks to dry the meat by continually turning it in the wind.



Days are shorter now and temperatures are lower, so you may have to dry some meat on a framework above a campfire. Meanwhile, camp activities will consume the rest of your time.

As you will remain here longer than the northern crossings, you have more time for hide and clothing preparation. You will also have much more to carry south, but it’s 150 km less! After the first permanent snow in September, the main herd has subdivided and returns to treeline from the forest for October rut. As the water-crossings are frozen solid, you use snares, snow blocks and spruce pole and brush enclosures to corral small wandering groups over several weeks to a month.

Hearth and Site Relationships

As the hearth is a locus of human activity, tools scattered around it may display type of activity. We can limit our analysis of activity types by limiting analysis of tool scatters to 1 or 2 m from the hearth.

Barrenland caribou hunting camps display distinct physical and cultural traits. Physical traits include camp topography (water-crossing location, contours, nearest water for drinking & cooking, nearest wood for fires, etc.). Cultural traits include material left by camp inhabitants, including use of tool activity areas and hearths (campfires) over many years (i.e., repeated behaviour forming palimpsests), within-site contact between hearth-centred families (fragments of one tool in different heaths, shared activity areas between hearths, etc. As a tent optimally housed about ten people – two nuclear families of two children each, and two surviving grandparents, we must consider this when examining 3-generation tool scatters around hearths. Hearths may have been used even longer. Seasonally different toolkits are another factor and based on different caribou usage (e.g., preference for skin vs. meat), needs due to weather (heavier winter clothing with fur attached to hide, vs. summer lighter bare hides and calf skins), etc. Hearth and tool spacing likely reflects these differences. While surviving poles suggest a tent diameter ca. 4-5 m, and tent stones are absent because sand can be used to hold tent bottoms down in the strong west wind, prehistoric sites have no surviving poles and few if any tent stones remain. We also know tent users placed hearths close to the entrance because of smoke. As tents are erected with their entrance away from the wind to avoid ballooning, it is likely the entrance is on the east side, with the hearth possibly even outside it.

Hearth-centred archaeology assumes hearths were centers for specific activities: women cooking meals or boiling bones to remove marrow fat for transport; men knapping stone tools and replacing lance heads using smudges to keep away numerous insects; story-telling in the evening chill; warmth, even insect avoidance. Whether hearths existed in or near tents, or possibly even at some distance, the artifacts scattered around them may indicate hearth-related activities. Their density and orientation with respect to the hearth may have cultural meaning; e.g., downstream smoke as an insect smudge; repeated use of an area for decades; resulting in a palimpsest. The number of people that can sit comfortably around a hearth is also a factor. To narrow data for analysis, an arbitrary 1m radius around a hearth is used, but this can be enlarged or reduced, based on whether we need more or less than a clear 2 m x 2 m scattergram.

As tents were too small for large work areas, large scraper scatters suggest flat untented activity areas that may be without hearths. Here, the size of the scattergram is sized by actual tool concentration; e.g., heavy widespread scraper distribution may signal a palimpsest used for decades, where one must analyse it as a unit, unless it can be broken down using specific artifact colour and material, patterning, etc. The same is true for knives for butchering, which requires a wide area, and keeps tents free from blood or meat that might attract pests and predators.

The significance of artifacts may depend on their relationship with other artifacts; e.g., scrapers and knives may co-occur, indicating first the butchering stage where the caribou is skinned and meat placed on the outstretched skin to keep it clean. The second stage would be removing meat from bone and cutting it into strips for wind-drying, plus breaking long bones for marrow removal using hot water. Obviously related tools would be awls, needles and skin softeners for hide-working; Pre-Dorset burins and their spalls and the bone they alter, etc.

Non-Hearth Oriented Space

These present more of a problem than hearth-oriented artifact scatters because they have no obvious central point about which activities occur. Nonetheless, they can be tackled by examining peripheries. First, you must examine the whole site level for obvious round or oval patterns of scrapers or knives. As each level or floor was occupied for several decades or several centuries, these are palimpsests showing the same activity repeated many times. They are inseparable to season but may be amenable to separating into roughly decadal events.

After examining the complete level for these ovals or circles, look for open space between them, keeping in mind human spatial needs: 1 sq.m for a bird’s eye view of a squatting human; more room for other activities like butchering carcasses and scraping skins – 4 sq.m. Then examine each concentration, looking for joined fragments which tell us that the same time event occurred for both and will allow us to place them as one activity on the scatter graph with a line, producing a larger activity area of the same time period.

Next, examine knives or scrapers within each periphery for breakage, worn edges or striae (indicating use) vs. sharp edges (suggesting manufacture). Both are graphed separately. If knives or scrapers are broken and still sharp, they suggest a manufacturing loci, which entails flying sharp stone chips at varying distances from the knapper and some distance from other people and outside a dwelling because of the accumulation. If knives and scrapers are broken and worn, they suggest breakage during use, and will demand different areas depending upon activities. Both may suggest an outstretched caribou skin of 4 sq. m, which is used for piling and keeping clean the butchered meat, or scraping the outstretched skin on the ground using stakes.

artifact See Pictures and Descriptions of the major tool classes
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