Creating Condition Reports at Hammersly Lake
Written by: Madeline Jennings
My latest project with Katmai National Park consisted of a short field stay at Hammersly Lake. Hammersly is a beautiful place, as everywhere in the park is, and has culturally significant sites all throughout the area. The lake itself feeds into American Creek, meaning that it is a fairly popular visitor area. People come to fish or float down the lake while fishing. It was extremely odd to see people while working in the field, I had gotten used to conducting work in isolated places that visitors do not typically go. In this case, however, there were two float planes a day dropping people off or picking them up. As such, I ended up getting to do a little bit of visitor interaction with the people who were interested in what we were doing there.
The purpose of our trip was to check on sites that had not been seen in quite a bit of time and fill out condition reports for them based on what we found. We worked with some sites that were recorded in 2001, and some that were in 2005. The first part of this process was locating the sites. This proved to be a bit of a challenge at times, as we were working with scanned journal pages and old Trimble files that did not necessarily line up with one another. Another issue that we ran into was that we were unable to find the datums for the sites that were reported on in 2001. Datums, in this case, were large metal stakes with caps that identified the sites. They are extremely helpful resources for following archaeologists and researchers who visit the sites. Not being able to locate some of them meant that there was a degree of uncertainty in our site boundaries, but we were able to find lithic scatters that seemed to line up pretty well.
Next, we would go through the lithic scatters and try to find notable pieces that had been recorded in the 2001 or 2005 field journals. We would also look to make sure that the materials we were seeing lined up with what we were supposed to be finding. This would help us to be more confident in determining that we were on the right site. After this, we would begin to take overview photos of the site, as well as more close up photos of any large features, or, often, water erosion patterning. As well, we would remap the site on the Trimble with more precise boundaries and labels. Many of these sites consisted of multiple areas of artifact scatter, so some of them took quite some time to map.
Once all of this was done, we would complete the condition assessment for the site. The purpose of the condition assessment is to know how the site is doing, what kind of damage, if any, is occurring, what kind of action needs to be taken to preserve the site, and how quickly that needs to happen. This means that the report discusses risk factors, the current condition of the site, how we were able to locate it, what kind of site it is, what kind of records exist for it, what kind of terrain it is in, and more. Basically, it is fairly extensive in order to stick to proper procedure and make things even easier for those who come in the future.
This was a really interesting and important trip, and most of the sites were in good condition, which was great. Some had minor water erosion, visitor traces, and slope sloughing, but nothing extremely major. The next part of this project will be to use the photos that we took and comparatively analyze the damage using photos from the original reports, if they can be located. Overall, I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to take part in this aspect of field archaeology, and, as always, I am looking forward to what comes next!