Posted by: Brian | August 28, 2009

Aniakchak’s Incised Stones

I’m working on a paper about the ‘art’ from Aniakchak (which is my poor excuse for not blogging). One of the surprises of our lab work was when we found several incised pebbles from the Koniag house feature. These pebbles are really hard to spot – which partly explains why we did not see them during the excavations. Incised pebbles are abundant along the northern rim of the Kodiak Archipelago at sites dated between AD 1300 and 1500. Most of the Koniag incised pebbles have anthropomorphic designs including examples found in the Brooks River area of the upper Alaska Peninsula.

Inscribed pebble from the Koniag style house at Aniakchak (ANIA-10138).

Incised pebble from the Koniag style house at Aniakchak (ANIA-10138).

The Aniakchak incised pebbles have what could be best called a geometric design. Here’s a quick photo I took of one of the pebbles. It’s not a very good shot. I’m just using it to help me draw the design. I’ll post a better picture and illustration as soon as I get them done.

What’s particularly interesting is that we also have incised stones from the main occupation at Aniakchak – an occupation contemporary with the Kachemak tradition on Kodiak. Incised stone is rarely found in sites from this period, but both Aniakchak and Kachemak examples also are best described as having geometric designs. It’s intriguing to speculate as to what these stones might be telling us about the relationships between the Aniakchak villagers and their neighbors of the Koniag and Kachemak traditions.

Inscribed stone from Aniakchak's AD 500 component (ANIA-5975)

Incised stone from Aniakchak's AD 500 component (ANIA-5975)



  1. Very Cool! And they are totally different from both Kachemak and Koniag incised pebbles from Kodiak Island. Your’s seem to have a lot of parallel lines. The kachemak ‘geometric’ designs from Kodiak tend to be either circles or ‘feathers’ and chevrons etc.

    I’ve always wondered if the stones were part of some ‘personality’ cult. They date to the very beginnings (stirrings) of ranked society. And everyone on the Pacific Rim was developing ranked society at that time. So perhaps each culture was using incised pebbles in the same way – only they had culturally specific designs? Does this make sense?


  2. Actually I’m a bit surprised that the incised stones aren’t more Kodiak in appearance. Virtually every other decorated object we have from the Kackemak period at Aniakchak could easily be lost in the Uyak assemblage.

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