hunting for herring & finding smelt from 49-NAK-008

49NAK008 smeltLast spring, while working in the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History, the sharp-eyed Anna Sloan found some small fish bones in a feature sample Don Dumond excavated from the Leader Creek site, 49-NAK-008, in 1973. In the pursuit of herring bones for our ancient DNA study, I examined the bones.  They weren’t herring but appear to be smelt, but not the eulachon or surf smelt we have in our comparative collection. This was confirmed after taking the specimens to Portland State, and examining Virginia Butler’s excellent collection. Rory Walsh took this great photo, and based on their provenience, I am *guessing* that these may be rainbow smelt, Osmerus mordax, which are common in this region. But rainbow smelt, to my knowledge, have never been identified in an Alaskan archaeological site.  At least some of the vertebrae (like the one in the upper right) look as if it passed through a digestive system, so perhaps these are stomach contents? I would love to be able to confirm the identification: does anyone have a rainbow smelt specimen available for loan? Or better yet, if you live on the Alaska Peninsula and fish for smelt, I would love to acquire a frozen fish to process.  I will pay for shipping! Has anyone ever identified rainbow smelt archaeologically?

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