Archaeology Day thrills explorers of all ages

The University Center took a trip back to the Paleolithic Age on Oct. 18, when UAA’s Anthropology Department hosted its second annual celebration of International Archaeology Day.
Volunteers from UAA, local archeological societies and businesses manned booths, displays and demonstrations for those trying to get in touch with their inner explorer. Visitors enjoyed opportunities to “excavate” bones from a sandbox, make arrowheads and use the primitive spear launcher known as an “atlatl.”
“People like archeology, and this is their chance to go see it,” said Anthropology Department chair Diane Hanson. “We all thought it was the coolest job when we were 10-year-olds, and now we get to do it for a living. So to be able to share that interest with kids of all ages is a lot of fun.”
Nathan Harmston, a graduate student specializing in zooarchaeology, spent the day with a felt board and cutouts of artifacts, explaining the law of superposition to young Archeology Day visitors.
The law, a basic tenant of archeology, simply states that older artifacts will usually be found in deeper strata than new ones, but it’s usually reserved for college-level courses. Harmston thinks that’s unfortunate.
“Kids seem have a much easier time understanding this than adults,” Harmston said. “It just totally makes sense to them that something that was around a long time ago would be deeper underground.”
Kids weren’t the only ones learning at Archaeology Day. Andy Zajac, a retired teacher, said his curiosity was piqued when he heard the event would feature atlatl throwing. Zajac once taught in the village of Noatak and received an atlatl throwing piece as a gift from an Alaska Native resident. This was his first chance to use one of the spear throwers to launch an actual projectile at a target.
“I always wanted to know more about how they were used,” Zijac said after taking a few shots at a plywood bison target in the parking lot. “It was a lot more difficult than I thought.”
According to the Archaeological Institute of America’s website, Archeology Day began in 2011 and was renamed International Archeology Day in 2013 to reflect the fact that more than 17 countries now participate, as well as 49 U.S. states. It is held on the third Saturday of September and, the site states, “is a celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery.”

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