General Information, Lab Updates

“I shall kill no albatross”

Dispatches from the field with Ariel

This month I am conducting research at the Museum of the North for my dissertation. At the Museum, I am examining several bird assemblages that were excavated and analyzed during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. All of these assemblages are from Amchitka island, which is the southernmost of the Rat Islands group in the Aleutian Islands.

As these collections were previously analyzed, my work here focuses on checking to make sure that the prior taxonomic ids were correct and seeing if there were any cut marks, burning, or pathologies that may have been missed in the prior analysis.

So far, there have been some interesting results!

One of the most interesting bones I’ve looked at was this albatross humerus that was COVERED in cut marks. Normally when we see cut marks on bird bones from the Aleutians there are only a a few present. As you can see there are cut marks all up and down the shaft of the bone. Was somebody practicing their cutting techniques? Were they removing feathers from the wing? Was the knife not sharp enough?

Albatross humerus with cut marks

Also in the albatross assemblage, I found this skull that has been burned. Part of the burned area is missing (it was likely lost either while it was sitting in the ground for several thousand years or post-excavation).


Ultimately, what caused each individual cut mark or burned bone has been lost to time, but by analyzing these collections as a whole, I will be able to piece together how each species was being exploited.

This research was made possible by NSF Dissertation Research Improvement Grant #1853169 (P.I. Chevral/co-PI Taivalkoski).


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