The Wenas Creek Mammoth excavation is currently closed. After 6 years of digging, we needed to take a break for three main reasons. First, we had a lot of material from those 6 years, and we need time to analyze and report on that. (It is a slow process to clean and analyze the bones. This is pretty clear when you consider that as of July 2012, we still had not cleaned and consolidated all of the bones from the 2005-2010 excavation.) Second, we wanted to end without leaving lots of bones partially uncovered, and we were at a good stopping place in 2010. Third, due to archaeological ethics, we think we need to leave parts of all sites for the future when methods will no doubt be much better than today.
Although the dig is closed, you can get a good view of the 2010 dig on our 3-D virtual dig tour, donated by High Sierra Productions (see photos below). In the future we might reconsider additional excavations, but for now, we are focusing on cleaning, analysis, and writing about the project. The first two writing projects we are doing are about the two site artifacts, and dating of the site.
The site artifact project involves project director Dr. Patrick (Pat) Lubinski (CWU), and chipped stone tool specialists Dr. Karisa Terry (CWU) and Dr. Patrick McCutcheon (CWU). The paper will describe the two chipped stone artifacts by comparison to the stone occurring naturally at the site, and to experimentally-produced chipped stone flakes. This is done in order to evaluate whether they are definite artifacts made by people, or things produced by nature that look like artifacts, which some people call “geofacts.”
The site dating project involves luminescence dating specialist Dr. Jim Feathers (University of Washington), Dr. Pat Lubinski (CWU), and geomorphologist Dr. Karl Lillquist (CWU). The paper will describe the methods we used to try to determine an age for the artifact found about six inches above a mammoth bone. The bone has been estimated to be about 17,000 years old using radiocarbon dating, but the age of the overlying artifact is uncertain.
Other ongoing projects focus on mammoth genetics (Jake Enk, McMaster University), site geomorphology (Dr. Karl Lillquist, CWU), as well as pollen, bone identifications, taphonomy, and other topics at the site.