Aniakchak

Aerial view of the South Aniakchak Village (SUT-027)

Aerial view of the South Aniakchak Village (SUT-027)

The south Aniakchak Bay Village (SUT-027) is a rich shell midden and house-pit site on the Alaska Peninsula within the Aniakchak National Preserve. We began work at this site in 2003 when Ross Smith (NPS/Portland State University) and I briefly visited the locality. We returned with a small crew of Hamline University students in 2004, excavating about 2 sq. meters of midden along an eroding bluff edge and testing other areas of the site. Our 2005 season involved a larger crew including field assistants Linda Chisholm (University of Minnesota) and Ayla Aymond, National Park Service employees, and students from Hamline University, University of Minnesota, and University of Alaska-Anchorage.

Aniakchak Field Crew - 2005 Field Season

Aniakchak Field Crew - 2005 Field Season

The major effort of our 2005 season focused on a large block excavation situated over a relatively distinct house depression. We did eventually find a house floor about 100 cm (3 feet) below the ground surface. The house floor had abundant features and artifacts in its southern end and very little in the northern end. Radiocarbon dates indicate the house was occupied around 1300 years ago. Above the house was a massive stone-lined hearth used between 200 and 300 years ago. Evidence of a slightly earlier occupation (around 1700 years ago) has been found along the ocean edge of the site. Changes in artifacts between these components suggest that the site’s occupants may have shifted back and forth between Eskimo, Alutiiq, and Aleut affiliated groups.

Parker and Caleb excavating along the bluff edge - 2007

Parker and Caleb excavating along the bluff edge - 2007

The summer of 2007 was our last field season at Aniakchak. Our crew was smaller than 2005, but we somehow managed to excavate more midden (thanks Ross!). Highlights of our last season included additional excavation of the 1300 bp house and new excavations in a 300 year old Koniag tradition multi-room house. We also found several interesting bone and ivory carvings. Rare pottery sherds (fiber tempered) were found associated with the site’s earliest occupation.

A final report on our excavations is due in June 2009. Until then we are busy in the lab, cataloging and analyzing the thousands of artifacts and hundreds of thousands of animal bones.

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