Posted by: Brian | March 3, 2012

Reporting In

I apologize for my long absence. Teaching and life have some how managed to keep me a little too busy lately. I always have ideas for my blog – stories I want to write, links I want to discuss, and pictures I want to post. I just need to get back into the habit of writing. First I plan to get to the backlog of stories – what happened with the Hamline History dig (we found what we were looking for!), other work in Minnesota (cool story on recycling of points and a Bicentennial party), my ‘ethnoarch’ explorations in Thailand and Cambodia (lots of cool pictures and video), and my Alaska research. The Aniakchak report is my immediate focus. I have a few months to write two chapters and edit the other chapters. I thought I’d post the opening two paragraphs of the report – just to help get me back into report-writing mode.

Ivory Carving from Aniakchak excavation


South Aniakchak Bay Village: Archaeology in Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve


High atop a rocky headland overlooking Aniakchak Bay sits a long abandoned village. For several centuries beginning around AD 400, this village was the home of an Alaskan native community. The residents of this site left behind a rich archaeological record of their daily lives. Stone projectile points and butchered animal bones attest to their skill in hunting. Delicate bone needles clustered around a fire hearth hint at the work of seamstresses and of the beautifully decorated clothing they must have made. A deciduous “baby” tooth tells us the obvious – that there were children in the village. One can imagine them helping a grandparent collect mussel shells from the reef in front of the site or playing with the other children down by the stream. Jet beads, a small whale figurine, and stones incised with geometric designs illustrate the villagers’ artistic traditions (Figure 1.1). Artifacts of copper, amber, ivory, slate, and obsidian document they did not live in isolation, but traded and traveled throughout the region.

The first ‘Aniakchak’ villagers repeatedly used this site for 400 to 500 years. The location was undoubtedly one of the community’s principle residential sites based on the abundance and variety of food remains and cultural debris they left behind. After AD 900 the site was only rarely visited until a new community made it their home sometime around AD 1400. The occupation of the more ‘recent’ community was less intense and probably of shorter duration compared to the earlier village. The lack of glass beads or other fur trade goods tells us that the younger village was abandoned prior to the mid 18th century arrival of Russian fur traders in the north Pacific.


  1. Brian – we missed you at the aaa’s in Seattle. But I got to hear about the late prehistoric occupation around Aniakshak. It looks like the ‘Koniag’ multiroom house developed on Kodiak around 650 BP and that at around 500 BP they appear everywhere on the Peninsula – seemingly all at once.

    I often wonder if people started to flee Kodiak at that time because society had become ranked and people were tired of getting bossed around – hence they left to start their own villages.

    Finally – good to see you blogging again!


  2. Thanks for your comment. The new survey data on Koniag houses is fascinating. I’m particularly intrigued by the large number of Koniag houses found inland – why are we not also finding a bunch in Chignik Bay, Chignik Lagoon and the outer coast? Do you think these Koniag were staying year round upriver or are we missing their coastal settlements?

  3. I actually do think that the Koniag started to live year round on the biggest interior rivers starting around ca 500 BP. That’s about when they moved to the big rivers on the Peninsula too. Next step for us is to excavate some interior ‘winter’ villages and really prove that there is year round settlement. And we have just begun to seek funding to do just this! patrick

    • Good luck with the funding. You and your colleagues are doing some of the best research. The fun challenge of your interior village research is ‘proving’ year round excavation – especially if you don’t have faunal remains (maybe even with faunal preservation – given the issues raised by storage). It’s the cool thing about archaeology. Trying to answer our more difficult questions.

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