Afognak Island has been the home of populous Eskimoan maritime hunters, ancestors of the historic Alutiiq people, for the last 7000 years or longer. Villages were located in every bay and at the mouth of every important salmon stream. Afognak and Kodiak both have several distinctive ecological features that were important in the development of Native lifeways.
The long well-stocked littoral (intertidal shore) zone and surrounding waters provided for a large population that once numbered 8000 persons or even more on Kodiak and Afognak.
Before recent introductions, land mammals were very limited, notably giant brown bears, river otters and foxes, and were not of major economic importance compared with sea mammals. Instead, the land was essentially a platform for living along the ocean, for maritime hunting, fishing and gathering.
The cool, stormy, wet climate – in a word, the Aleutian low pressure system – constrains nature and human activity. Spring comes slowly and little green vegetation is to be seen until the middle of June. The heads of inlets where salt water is diluted with fresh water freeze, as at the mouth of the Afognak River, but with their almost-temperate climate the coasts remain ice-free during winter. Thus, hunting and fishing techniques were not oriented to working from sea ice, unlike the case along the arctic coast. Until less than a millennium ago, there was no spruce forest to shelter settlements and buffer the impact of storms. But there is an upside to rough weather. High winds and wind-enhanced currents actually increase the primary oceanic productivity (of phytoplankton) of the western Gulf of Alaska and thus make a positive contribution towards supporting the abundance of fish and consequently of sea mammals and of seabirds.
The rich oceanic setting includes fishing banks located east of Afognak, sea mammal rookeries and haul outs, bird rookeries, migratory populations of whales and fur seals, and a bountiful littoral zone exposed by tides that range by up to 13 feet between high and low extremes. Thus, the complexly embayed and channelled shoreline supports ecological diversity and an abundance of virtually everything from whales to periwinkles. And there is a lot of shore habitat (3600 km for the Kodiak Archipelago by one measure) in relation to landmass.
The wet climate (about 80 inches annual precipitation) and complex topography combine to endow Afognak with more than a score of streams that support salmon runs. These formed the basis for a major summer fishery at the larger stream mouths, as at the Afognak River (Litnik), Selezneva (Little Afognak), Malina Creek (Malinovski Litnik) and Portage River (at Discoverer Bay). Thanks to the gouging action of Ice Age glaciers the islands not only were left with their intricate fiorded coastline but also with lakes to which the red salmon return to spawn.
Though there was a certain degree of cultural continuity throughout 7000 years, this duration was punctuated by numerous developments, such as making tools by grinding slate instead of flaking them from hard stone. This leads to the convenient division of prehistory into a series of periods – Ocean Bay, Kachemak and Koniag – here called traditions. Deglaciation of the islands and adjacent Alaska Peninsula at the end of the Ice Age about 12,000 years ago sets a limit to the possible age of settlement. As yet, though, no known archaeological remains on either Kodiak or Afognak come even close to this age.
THE PEOPLE THE RUSSIANS MET
We do not know how the Russian fur seekers first met the inhabitants of Afognak Bay. Possibly some Afognak hunters had gone to the Russian outpost at Aleksoshkino (Alutiiq Chiniak) on Woody Island which had been established a year or two after the Russians had landed at Three Saints Bay. At that time Shelikhov also had sent two men to Shuyak Island, who were killed by the Shuyak chief, as reported by Afognakers who bore the news to Chiniak. To establish his firm rule, and possibly because he feared a conspiracy to destroy the Russian foothold on Kodiak, Shelikhov eradicated the native settlement(s) on Shuyak and possibly also northern Afognak Island. Soon the interests of Shelikhov's company also turned to Afognak Bay. A village or house is shown at Afognak Bay on Izmailov's 1786 map of Kodiak (published in 1787 as part of a larger map). This one and another map of the same date show a storehouse or depot, sometimes referred to as a fort, on the north side of Afognak Island. It appears that the "fort" was short lived as it is absent from later maps. From before the end of the 1700s dealings with Afognak Islanders, from unspecified villages, are mentioned in historic records. Sometime before 1802 two artels had been established, Igvak (Kattak) and Malinovskii Litnik. There was another litnik or summer fishing station at Litnik at the Afognak River and an odinochka (small or one-man post) at Afognak village. According to one account the odinochka managed the fishing at Litnik while a mid-19th century report attaches Litnik to Kattak. There may also have been an artel at Selezneva (Little or Mali Afognak).
What kind of people did Shelikhov's men meet? The answer to this question is, in a sense, the top layer of salt fish in the deep barrel of prehistory that this chapter deals with. Let us look into the keg. The Kodiaks, Native Americans, Koniags or "Aleuts," now called Alutiiq, lived by, with and from the sea. Whalers were important specialists in Alutiiq society, though somewhat feared. They relied on whales rising to the surface or drifting ashore after they were struck with poison-tipped spears. The deep bays around Afognak, like Danger Bay and Kizhuyak Bay, were especially suited for the Alutiiq method of whaling. And the whales were plentiful in Marmot Bay and at the tide rips outside Whale Passage, Afognak Strait and Shuyak Strait. Hrdlicka reported that ritual whale trap was drawn across outer Kizhuyak Bay using a pouch of fat from a corpse. Ordinary hunters focused on harbor seals, supplemented by many porpoise and sea lions, to supply most of the red meat and also oil and hides. The seals were harpooned from kayaks or from the shore after being attracted within range by a decoy. The decoys consisted of seal head-shaped helmets and inflated seal skins. Seals also were entangled in large nets and were clubbed at haulouts as also probably also were sea lions. And hunters managed to harpoon many fleet porpoises. Bears were hunted with bows and arrows, though not many were killed. Occasionally there were trips across Shelikof Strait to the Alaska Peninsula for caribou, or the meat and antlers of this animal were obtained by trade from Peninsular Alutiiqs. Sea birds were taken with multi-pronged spears and in nets. Their rookeries were raided for eggs.
In the sea, many fish obligingly attached themselves to hooked lines, especially cod, rockfish and halibut. Of equal importance was the summertime focus on the salmon fishery at the mouths of streams, especially the Afognak River. Weirs located close to the summer settlements held back and penned the salmon so they could be speared. The food quest followed the natural migration cycles of animals and fish. In turn, this cycle formed a calendar for other aspects of Alutiiq life. In the fall, after the salmon runs, people returned to their main settlements and hunted sea mammals as the time for winter festivities approached. The main or winter villages were located close to the outer coasts, so as not to be left isolated and sometimes frozen-in at the heads of bays.
Houses usually were not numerous, but extended families or cooperating households of about 20 persons lived in each dwelling. Thus, a settlement could hold 100 to 200 persons, though some were larger or smaller. The main or central common room served as a workshop and kitchen, and also for storage, while nuclear or individual families occupied appended anterooms. One of the side chambers was used for a wet "sweat bath" similar in some aspects to the Russian banya (but the rocks were heated in the main room and then taken into the bath). The structures were set into a rectangular pit, dug too feet or deeper into the ground for protection from the weather, banked with turf, and covered with thatch. The superstructure was of posts and beams, the roof probably cribbed with a central smoke hole-skylight. Historical ethnographers and surviving traditions fail to describe the composition of a household. It very likely was an extended family, possibly sisters and their husbands and offspring, plus surviving parents. There also could have been unmarried brothers, foster children, attached persons of low status and actual slaves. Persons who died were interred within the village area, sometimes even in one of the anterooms of their house, or were taken to an old abandoned village for burial (their ancestral home?). In a sense, they continued to be members of the community. Important persons might be mummified and placed in secluded rock shelters where they risked being discovered by whalers and used in secret rites.
Other rituals and ceremonies were more public. These are incompletely recorded but included dances, masked theatrical performances and feasts during the winter season. At this time the recently deceased were honored with a memorial feast. Certain ceremonies had the objective of pleasing and propagating game, while some were invitational feasts for trading and socializing with neighboring villages.
Important persons included chiefs. They often were "rich men." Their office appears to have been inherited to some degree, from father to son or uncle to nephew, but also was attained and maintained on a personal basis. Shamanism was prominent and was practiced by both men and women, some of whom were transvestites. In addition, there were herbalist curerers and other persons with medical expertise. The office of the wise-man or kasek, who organized religious ceremonies, was held by yet another specialist later equated to an Orthodox priest,. Whalers had a special but somewhat feared and "unclean" status. Finally, the Alutiiq owned slaves, but few details are recorded and slavery does not appear to have been essential to Alutiiq economics and society.
SOME NATURAL HISTORY
Some of the factors introduced earlier merit further discussion. Shallow sea banks located off the southeast side of the island, today the site of highly productive fisheries, supported fish stocks which in turn supported sea mammals and birds dependent upon fish and other resources of the banks for food. Aided by the long complex coastline, these resources then enabled the islands to support a dense human population. But there were natural and practical constraints that limited a person’s ability to make a living. Prolonged stormy periods made it difficult to hunt and fish, damp weather could spoil drying fish, cycles and unexplained shifts occurred in the natural abundance and distribution of fish and other animals. And disputes with neighbors or fear that raiders would appear suddenly from around a headland might have restricted access to certain territories. Even in a land of abundance there were times of "belt tightening."
The relatively high precipitation (around 80 inches or 200 cm) supplies a large number of streams, which, because of topography, tend to be short. This results in almost innumerable streams and “lagoons” where salmon and Dolly Varden char and Steelhead trout spawn. Most numerous are the pink salmon and red salmon. The latter ascend the streams until they reach a lake, but “pinks" and the other species (silver, chum) do not need lakes to spawn, though some also go there. Red salmon arrived as early as the end of April in former years when runs were great, and sliver salmon linger in a necrotic state at the spawning beds into winter, but salmon are available primarily during the late spring and summer. Most of the interior of Afognak is hilly and even mountainous, except the east side, and offers few subsistence resources compared with the sea. Settlements and subsistence activities thus were oriented towards the sea, except for salmon fishing camps which sometimes were located above the mouths of major streams.
Forests are limited essentially to spruce trees, and they were absent until the second millennium A.D. Older examples from Afognak Island are about 600 years to 600 years old. It is thought that these examples may be among the first spruce to have taken root on the island. Today stands of balsam poplar and cottonwood and black birch are rarely found on Afognak, which contrasts with the case on Kodiak. However, poplar groves may have occurred on Afognak before the rise of the spruce forest. The most prominent vegetation for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the spruce forest was shrub birch and alders. Now, spruce has crowded the alders into unshaded patches of their former habitat. Prior to European contact the primary source of timber for construction was driftwood, brought in by ocean currents and conveniently barked and trimmed through battering in the surf. In early times, after people had combed their home beaches for a generation, driftwood may have become scarce. Accordingly, good timbers would have been salvaged and reused when houses were abandoned or rebuilt. Today, most driftwood in the area originates through West Coast logging or other human activity.
Major environmental changes affected Afognak in the past. These included melting of the Ice Age (Pleistocene) glaciers that had buried the land, and subsequent colonization by plants and animals culminating in the arrival of people. They came during a time of encroaching seas, before the relationship between the edge of the land and ocean stabelized roughly 6000 years ago. Land-sea relationships pose a complex scenario of waters rising as global ice caps melted (eustatic rise), land emerging as it became free of the weight of the ice (isostacy), and changes in level, either up or down, as the earth's plates shifted and earthquakes rippled through the crust (tectonics) . On the whole, except for the short-term effects of earthquakes and gradual loss due to coastal erosion, the shore has been near its present position for approximately the last 6000 years. Earlier edges of the land now are under the ocean.
There were climatic changes of a magnitude that would have seriously impacted farmers but may have had little impact on the maritime hunters of Afognak. Nevertheless, there could have been significant changes in oceanic water temperatures affecting the abundance and distribution of fish stocks and of the sea mammals and birds dependent on fish for food. These remain to be documented, but one day analysis of food refuse from archaeological middens, especially fish bones, may be able to provide pertinent, though indirect, information. Analysis of lake bottom deposits by Bruce Finny at the University of Alaska also is yielding information about fluctuations in salmon runs during the last 2000 years. The size of runs, i.e., the number of salmon that die in the lakes, affects the chemical composition of gradually accumulating lake deposits. These deposits can be sampled, analysed quantitatively for chemical content and dated in increments representing the passage of time in order to construct a time trend that indirectly represents the abundance of salmon, most notably red salmon. Soon after the end of the Ice Age climates warmed rapidly in the Northern Hemisphere and for a period were or even warmer than today. The first settlers thus may have found Afognak to be a pleasant place.
This "hypsithermal interval" ended about 3500 years ago and the so-called "Neoglacial" began. The climate became cooler and probably wetter, according to the interpretation of pollen (e.g., plant species identification and abundance) recovered in bogs. Perhaps significantly, the Neoglacial is the time when the Ocean Bay tradition ended, Early Kachemak began, and occasional traces of a Bering Sea people, called the Arctic Small Tool tradition, appeared south of the Alaska Peninsula. Changes in the distribution of fish stocks could have occurred again and some mammals peculiar to the Arctic and Bering sea regions might have wandered south to Kodiak, but that remains to be determined. Later, early in the second millennium AD spruce trees arrived at the northeast end of the islands and began their halting march southwestward to reach, only recently, halfway to the end of Kodiak. More recent climatic cooling during the second half of the second millennium AD, called the “Little Ice Age,” coincides with the final blooming of precontact Alutiiq culture and may have been a cause according to archaeologist Richard Knecht. In particular, the size of salmon runs could have increased as the climate became cooler and rainier.
There also were short term adverse effects from earthquakes and tidal waves and resultant episodes of shoreline erosion. Some villages had to relocate or move back. Littoral zone shellfish that had been a source of food were killed off temporarily, whether the land sank or rose, but became reestablished after a brief period.
It is interesting to speculate on whether any of Kodiak's limited indigenous land fauna (brown bear, red fox, vole, river otter, weasel, little brown bat and ground squirrel) was introduced by humans. Ground squirrels, especially the race found on Chirikof Island, were prominent early during the contact period as a source of pelts for parkas. Zoologists think that they are an introduction on the basis of the sporadic distribution of colonies on Kodiak and offshore islands. The absence of this common species from precontact midden sites, except on Chirikof where they are prehistoric, seemingly supports the interpretation that they were introduced at the beginning of the Russian period to replace more desirable furs that were diverted to the European trade. However ground squirrels were present and well established on Marmot Island at least by 1792 AD according to Russian narratives of exploration. Thus, they probably predate European contact. Their ephmeral presence at some localities (Pillar Mountain, Woody Island, Marmot Island) may relate to human intervention and predation by dogs. If sites with animal remains older than those presently known from the Ocean Bay tradition are discovered, this may help establish the antiquity of some species in the Kodiak Archipelago.
THE THREE ARCHAEOLOGICAL TRADITIONS
TECHNOLOGY AND ADAPTATIONS
Three sequential archaeological traditions are recognized on Kodiak though transitions and ongoing features held in common establish some degree of continuity between traditions.
The first tradition, Ocean Bay, starting about 5500 BC, is punctuated by technological developments that stand out both within and beyond the Kodiak region, the development of ground slate implements, for instance. Then about 1900 BC the Kachemak tradition developed. This is a basic old North Pacific culture with strong ties to Palaeo-Eskimo cultures of the Bering Sea region and with Aleutian Islanders. By about 1200 AD Kachemak had become basically the ancestral culture of the Alutiiqs encountered by the Russians in 1763. This was the Koniag tradition.
The chronology used here is based on corrected radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon dating is one of archaeology's most powerful tools, but it errs slightly. Appropriate corrections can be applied on the basis of information derived from comparing tree ring (true) dates with raw radiocarbon dates. Generally, dates of the last 2000 years fluctuate by a few decades on either side of real age, but after that they gradually fall short. By 4000 years ago the shortfall has increased to about 350 years; 5000 years ago it is about 600 years (i.e., a radiocarbon date of 4400 years actually means the age is 5000 years). Radiocarbon dates should be interpreted with a certain degree of latitude because laboratory methods entail statistical imprecision (the + "error"). As well, the date may be indirect. For instance, it is assumed that the age of wood burned in a hearth, which may be old driftwood, tells when the fire was lit. That is not necessarily so.
Both the artifacts and the nonmaterial culture of these traditions can be thought of in terms of functional groups, particularly (a) hunting and fishing, including boats and weapons, (b) tools including tools to make things or process materials, (c) household items such as lamps and pottery, (d) clothing and personal adornment, (e) ceremonial, ritual and games, and also (f) architecture, meaning houses and other structures. Artifacts generally were made of local materials, though certain furs, tusk-shaped dentalium shells, ivory, marble, amber and jet (coal) used for ornaments and carvings, caribou antler, beaver and porcupine teeth for implements, possibly red ochre for rituals, and some food, especially caribou venison, were imported from the mainland. Metal, mainly copper imported through middlemen at Cook Inlet, is only infrequently found in archaeological sites and then is late. Pottery partially replaced bent-wood tubs or other containers for preparing food on southern Kodiak during Koniag times but was not adopted on Afognak Island. Undoubtedly, though, Afognak Islanders knew about pottery as it was used briefly across at Anton Larsen Bay, about 1100 AD. The island was self-sufficient in resources, and it was primarily luxury goods that were imported. But not all technology was developed locally, and probably, some of the customs, games, songs, stories, rituals and style fashions (ideational culture) that complemented technology first appeared among neighboring groups and were adopted by the islanders. These commonalties, along with a shared language helped maintain a distinct Pacific Eskimo culture area around the Northern Gulf of Alaska.
By frequency, the tool category predominates, but the most common tools like hammer stones, abraders and cobble spalls are not very distinguished, they being essentially natural uitilized stones. The distinctive character of each of the three traditions depends very much on styles of hunting implements and on a limited number of artifacts in other categories such as distinctively styled Kachemak stone lamps and heavy grooved Koniag splitting adzes. Bentwood containers, basketry, kayak and umiak parts, weapon shafts, labrets, figurines and dolls, masks and other ceremonial gear, and game pieces also are prominent at waterlogged sites where wood, cordage and baskets have been preserved. The only waterlogged site intensively investigated thus far is a Koniag site at Karluk and we can only surmise which similar items were present in earlier cultures. Waterlogged sites occur when ground water to rises into the site deposits, as happens at the base of a hill: the water excludes air and this slows the decay of wood.
Some customs are inferred from indirect evidence. For example, massive accumulations of fire-cracked rock strongly indicates use of the so-called sweat bath, which appears to have been a steam bath or wet sauna similar to the Russian "banya." This bath actually is recorded ethnographically and may have been an important adaptation to damp, cold conditions and a cure for incipient hypothermia. The Koniags were exceedingly fond of the bath and at their sites accumulations of discarded fire-cracked rock are up to six feet thick.
The terms used for arms and weapons – spears, lances, darts, harpoons, leisters and arrows – can be confusing. A spear freely leaves the hand, i.e., it is thrown, and it does not have a line attached to it. If the spear has a feathered (fletched) shaft it may be called a dart. Some darts are only slightly larger than arrows, but whales were killed with six-foot-long darts! An implement that is held and jabbed is a lance. Lances tend to be larger and heavier than spears. With a harpoon, a connection is maintained with the quarry by means of a line attached at one end to the harpoon head and, at the other end, to a float, the projectile shaft, or held in the hunter's hand. Harpoons can be cast like spears, as in the case of harpoon-darts, thrust like a lance, or, shot from a bow as in the case of harpoon-arrows used for hunting sea otters. Leisters are spears, darts and arrows with multiple prongs or tips arranged around the end or at a midway location on the shaft, used on birds and fish.
In the description of each tradition attention will be given to housing. Houses, together with clothing, protected a person from the environment. The household organization also helped a person articulate with the rest of the community. The size and layout of houses reflect the organization of households. Large houses imply planning, leadership and probably also wealth in order to assemble the necessary materials and secure labor to erect a dwelling. It is instructive, too, to compare the features of housing in permanent villages with those of summer villages or fishing camps. Data for this comparison, which as yet are sparse, suggest that houses were similar at both types of settlements. Possibly the cohesiveness of households was maintained between the seasons and through moves from one settlement to another. Houses also contain features that give clues about cooking techniques and storage. Knowledge of precontact housing on Afognak is derived primarily from the Koniag tradition village at Settlement Point supplemented by surface traces or house outlines at other localities.
OCEAN BAY (STAGES I AND II, APPROXIMATELY 5500 BC TO 1900 BC)
In order to be able to live on Kodiak and Afognak, the first people to move to the archipelago would already have mastered the techniques and followed the lifeways demanded of a North Pacific maritime hunter and fisher. Presumably they learned what they need to know while living on the adjacent Alaska Peninsula. These people are referred to as the Ocean Bay tradition, named after a locality on Sitkalidak Island. At 7000 or 7500 years ago villages of the Ocean Bay tradition appeared essentially simultaneously on the Shelikof Strait side of the Peninsula and on Kodiak Island. On the Bering Sea side of the Alaska Peninsula there is an earlier “Paleo-Arctic” culture that shows links to the old stone age cultures of Asia. Possibly Ocean Bay developed as a marine-hunting offshoot of the Paleo-Arctic tradition. Ocean Bay may have supplied the ancestral colonizing population of Afognak, or there may be an undiscovered antecedent “ghost” culture. Whoever arrived first found a pristine land and prospered there.
The highly successful Ocean Bay hunters managed for several thousand years with a single type of non-toggling harpoon head, made in a range of sizes – 'if it works don't fiddle with it' seems to have been their axiom. There also were spears in several varieties, including ones for birds and fish, some with flaked stone tips, some with bone heads. It is not known if they had the bow and arrow, which is believed to have appeared in North America at a later time. Early Ocean Bay used microblades set in slots along the sides of slender unbarbed bone points, and these points could have been arrow heads.
A microblade is a thin, very regular, narrow (quarter inch or less) elongate flake with straight razor-sharp edges produced by controlled kapping techniques from specially prepared small blocks or cores of stone. Microblades formed ready-to-use cutting edges for small tools, and points. Those found on Kodiak and Afognak are 5000 years old and older.
It is not known what kind of game these points were used on, but they are sufficiently abundant that they likely were used on sea mammals. Otherwise, they would have been for defence and aggression against other people and possibly bears. There also is evidence for the early use of spear throwers in the form of throwing board pegs recovered by P. Hausler-Knecht from the Rice Ridge site located near Chiniak. Later, in Kachemak times, toggle harpoon heads and additional styles of non-toggling heads appeared. Part of the necessary equipment for hunting at sea was a waterproof parka (kamleika). No garments have been recovered from local archaeological digs, but numerous delicate eyed needles that would have served for sewing water repellent gear were recovered at the Rice Ridge and from Kachemak sites. Other Ocean Bay implements included stone lamps, small adze bits, fish hooks, cobble spalls which were used as knives and scrapers for hides and also for sawing slate, and the occasional large grooved cobble probably used for sinking a line to the floor of the ocean. The earliest lamps were long, narrow and pointed at one end and had deep bowls. Early in Ocean Bay I large parallel-sided flakes, almost shaped like prisms, termed “blades,” were used as blanks for the production of stone tools. Blade technology was a carryover from the earlier Paleo-Arctic era on mainland Alaska and Siberia, as also were the slotted bone points armed with inset microblades.
About 6000 or 6500 years ago bone working techniques were adapted to fashioning slate. Thenceforth ground slate tools partially replaced flaked flint (chert) tools and later, in Ocean Bay II times, slate grinding became the main means of working stone. Mainly pointed implements were produced in slate. Most of them followed the elongate tapered outline of sawn slate strips or blanks but some were copies of flaked chert tools. Some of the long stemmed points are truly like bayonets. Many ground slate blades bear fine edge serrations or tiny barbs and cut-line decorations on the faces. It is not clear that the cut lines were purely non-functional. They could they have held poison or facilitated bleeding. The crescentic knife, commonly known by the Eskimo term "ulu" was absent until the very end of Ocean Bay times. Cutting and butchering was done with double-edged blades shaped somewhat like large lance blades. Development of the ground slate industry provides a case example of innovation in which technology for sawing, scraping and finishing bone and antler implements was transferred to slate. This development can be seen as being related to hunting on the water where there is less danger of breaking brittle points and to the local availability of slate. Significantly, the first use for ground slate on Afognak was for projectiles and pointed implements. Settlements at the mouth of the Afognak River contributed significantly to the development of Ocean Bay technology, especially the invention of ground slate tools. This development then spread eastward from Kodiak to Southeastern Alaska. For the best definition of Ocean Bay it is necessary to look to a site on Kodiak, Rice Ridge located near Chiniak, which has preserved bone artifacts and bones from the game caught, unlike the Afognak River sites where only stone has survived..
Ocean Bay people were fond of red ochre with which they liberally dusted the floors of their houses. The largest artifacts found there are large flat stones, resembling metates, for grinding red ochre.
Excavations have only partially uncovered Ocean Bay houses. Rice Ridge seems to have had rectangular floors at least 12 by 18 feet in extent. Late Ocean Bay deposits there also revealed a dug-in or semisubterranean circular house at least 12 feet in diameter. A relatively small subrectangular depression on the river at Litnik appears to be an Ocean Bay house judging from the presence of a deep red ochre streak, probably the house floor. This feature shows that dug-in houses, often thought to have been the snug winter mode, also were built for summer use. Evidence for substantial housing also comes from the Slate site, AFG 011, at the Afognak River, though the details are fragmentary. Here, boulders had been used in the construction. Numerous irregular stone blocks of various sizes occurred in swath 18 feet wide. These probably are from a tumbled house or two, the front edge(s) of which were lost to bank erosion. The stones were greatly disturbed from the original construction. Some lay more or less atop others but not as a solid, coursed wall. Over about half the area of this feature an orange-brown volcanic ash that underlay the occupation had been removed down to glacial till, probably for a house pit. Inside, two stone lamps were found next to three post holes.
Many volcanic ashes fell after the glaciers melted, until about six or seven thousand years ago, forming the thick brown, orange and yellow bands sometimes referred to as "butter-clay." More ash or "tephras" also fell later. Early Ocean Bay settlements often lay directly atop the butter-clay deposit which frequently provides an imprint of post holes and ancient house pits. Volcanic ash layers found higher up in the deposits can be used to help date and correlate sites. Finally, the highest layer, the Katmai-Novarupta ash of 1912 that thickly overlies all Afognak sites can be credited with protecting the surfaces.
Continuing exploration has resulted in the discovery of a substantial number of Ocean Bay settlements, many of them overlain by Kachemak tradition occupations. After making reasonable allowance for the progressive loss of sites through erosion it thus is likely that there were about as many settlements during Ocean Bay times as there were during succeeding Kachemak times.
Arctic Small Tool Tradition
The last Ocean Bay folk and Early Kachemak people had visitors from the Bering Sea area about 4000-3500 years ago judging from the recovery of tell-tell alien-style artifacts. They were of the Arctic Small Tool tradition (ASTt) which occupied the region extending from the Alaska Peninsula to Greenland. The few ASTt artifacts from the Kodiak Islands include a grooving tool bit (burin) found out of context on the Afognak River. More traces of these people may be hidden in the soil there. Additional ASTt specimens were found by R. Knecht in the soil on the refuge islet off Sitkalidak and by P. Hausler-Knecht in a top level of the Rice Ridge site. Adventurous ASTt people evidently visited Kodiak at the time Ocean Bay was transformed into the Kachemak tradition. But that ensuing tradition did not adopt any ASTt tool technology.
KACHEMAK TRADITION, 1900 BC to 1200 AD
Kachemak arose from Ocean Bay culture through many technological additions and modifications that occurred within the span of a very few centuries, which is relatively fast for that kind of thing to happen. This tradition began during a period of cooler climate, called the Neo-Glacial. With the inception of the Neo-glacial a long era of climate, as warm as and sometimes warmer than that of today, experienced by Ocean Bay people ended. Early Kachemak appears to be a spartan, utilitarian, basic old North Pacific culture, but interpretations of it may be biased because artifact recovery is largely limited to stone tools. These tools originally were a minor ingredient of the culture. (One Early Kachemak site at Kachemak Bay has yield a modest collection of bone artifacts including an archaic style of toggle harpoon head and labrets.) Late Kachemak was more elaborate, with much attention having been given to ritual treatment of the dead, to personal ornamentation, a profusion of labrets, and an oil lamp art that probably expressed male and female deities. Compared with Ocean Bay, there were many changes in fishing and hunting artifacts. This does not necessarily mean that there was less fishing earlier: there are alternative ways to catch fish, especially salmon.
Kachemak origins are poorly documented, but surface collections and test pits made at site AFG 088 located at the mouth of the Afognak River have yielded a series of tools that show technological and stylistic continuity with late Ocean Bay. The tool set also contains artifacts lacking in Ocean Bay but found in Early Kachemak (details are in Appendix II). Evidence for an Ocean Bay-Kachemak transition includes slate tools made by the distinctive sawing and scraping technique of Ocean Bay, in some cases also duplicating Ocean Bay styles. Some tools also continued to be flaked from chert (flint) which had been the dominate tool making mode of early Ocean Bay times. Little-modified stone slabs, bars, cobbles and small boulders also were used extensively for fish line and net weights, for very large hide scrapers, and as material blanks for stone lamps, cobble spall tools, mauls and ochre grinders, and for grooved cobble weights.
Early Kachemak made much greater use of grooved cobble and notched pebble weights than Ocean Bay for fishing lines and nets. Labrets were now adopted on Kodiak. The custom of wearing lip plugs may have reached Kodiak from Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, a region commonly referred to as the Northwest Coast, or from Siberia. The broad, single-edged, ground slate semilunar knife or ulu, a hallmark of Eskimos, became common. Toggle harpoon heads appeared on Kodiak and also in other areas of Alaska and British Columbia at this time. If they have any one point of origin it has not yet been determined. This addition to hunting technology is of especial interest considering that Ocean Bay sea mammal hunters had flourished for 3000 years without toggling harpoons. (Toggling harpoons completely penetrate through the hide of an animal, and then, due to the design of the device, turn sideways, like a button securely in its hole.)
Gradually, Kachemak lost some of its Ocean Bay features and about 300 BC elements of art, ceremony and decoration became commonplace. There is better preservation of bone artifacts now. Data come from several excavated sites on Kodiak, from the 1999 test excavation at the Old Afognak Aleut Town site, and also from eroded sites at the Afognak River. Tools now include an array of bone implements: awls, delicate eyed needles, wedges, harpoon heads and harpoon sockets (placed at the end of the harpoon shaft), arrow heads and spear prongs, pins for fish gorges and composite implements, fish hook shank and barbed parts (the two were lashed together to form the complete hook), fish effigy lures, and sockets for stone adze bits. Most of these items had been known 2000 years earlier in Ocean bay times, so possibly their absence from Early Kachemak is due only to poor preservation and inadequate exploration. Stone adze bits usually are small and not numerous compared with their abundance in Koniag times, possibly indicating less heavy woodworking. Clamshell-shaped spalls from cobbles often were used as expedient tools for scraping, chopping and other uses. Ornaments, mostly for human adornment, became commonplace. These included both stylized and naturalistic human and animal figurines, cylindrical and sometimes globular and pendant-shaped beads in jet (coal), amber, a red stone from Kachemak Bay, shell and other material, rings for the nasal septum or ear lobe, nose pins and especially labrets. Labrets were made in several styles, sizes and materials.
The dead often were interred within occupied settlements, keeping the deceased as members of the community. Incomplete burials and scattered human bones are startlingly abundant in Kachemak refuse deposits. The bones often show cut marks and breaks or have been made into artifacts. Some were drilled for attachment or suspension. At one site sections of jaw with two and three teeth had been cut out of the skull and ground to an even surface across the front of the teeth. Cut marks on some bones may be from ritual dismemberment. These occurrences have generated considerable discussion of a Kachemak mortuary complex on Kodiak Island and at Kachemak Bay, and also of possible cannibalism. There are flexed single burials, which are the norm, and mass graves but extended burial was rare. Mass burials were interpreted by Hrdlicka as evidence of massacres. One grave at the Uyak site contained parts of 18-20 individuals described by Robert Heizer as “skeletons piled indiscriminately; skeletons incomplete. Probably secondary reburial. Long bones split (for marrow?)” (Heizer 1956: Archaeology of the Uyak Site). Current thought is that the mass graves are mortuary crypts that were reopened from time to time to add more bodies (sometimes disturbing earlier burials in the process).
Human bones encountered during house construction and possibly "rehabilitated" mummies and trophies that no longer were wanted also were added. Other mortuary elements include and an eagle skeleton as grave goods, artificial eyes placed in the skull, extra skulls or trophies in the grave, and at Kachemak Bay a clay mask. Altogether, Kachemak treatment of the dead and use of human remains was varied, extensive and sometimes bizarre. Later, Koniag burial customs also emphasised interment in occupied and abandoned sites or house pits, though cairn burial and disposition in rock crevices also was practiced (Ocean Bay burial practices are unknown).
In Late Kachemak times stone lamps became very large – up to 90 pounds. They obviously incorporated elements for participation in rituals judging from carvings of whales, seals, humans, human breasts and (magic?) circles in the bowl or on the lamp exterior. At Kachemak Bay, in addition to female lamps with breasts there appear to be male lamps identified by Sphinx-like figures in the bowl. On Kodiak there are human faces and figures of undetermined gender. At Kachemak Bay large lamps of both genders were intentionally defaced, battered and broken apart or killed. These lamps required a major input of labor and skill for their execution and their destruction must indicate no small amount of distress and dissatisfaction with the lamp deities. Unlike the case in the Arctic proper, on Afognak lamps were used for light, not for cooking.
Exotic goods were obtained through trade. One or more Late Kachemak houses excavated by Amy Steffian at the Uyak site appear to have been home workshops for producing jet (coal) ornaments, particularly labrets. The raw material probably came from the adjacent mainland. Many elements of Kachemak technology, as well as tool styles and ornaments, are identical to those of the 2000-year-old ancestral Eskimo Norton culture of the Bering Sea region. Norton and Kachemak people probably visited across the Alaska Peninsula for trade and held “invitational feasts” and may have intermarried. Thus ancient Afognak was part of the broader community of ancestral Yupik Eskimo peoples.
There is little information on complete Early Kachemak houses. Most of them probably did not differ greatly from single-room Late Kachemak houses. At the Old Kiavak site, located southwest of Old Harbor, a trench intersected a 23-foot-long house pit (possibly including entryway). Three possible Early Kachemak houses uncovered during Hrdlicka's Uyak Site excavations, as reported by Heizer, were single rectangular rooms slightly dug into the ground, measuring from about 8 feet square up to 13 by 16.5 feet. In each there was a stone slab fireplace. Excavations at the Bliski site on Near Island by the Alutiiq Museum uncovered part of a floor dated to about 3000 years ago. The complete structure possibly was subrectangular and may have measured about 18 feet across. It is identified as a semisubterranean house, dug into the ground almost a foot and a half and probably covered with sod or thatch.
The best data for Late Kachemak houses are from the Uyak site near Larsen Bay. Heizer reported small single-room rectangular houses plus a circular one about 28 feet in diameter. Steffian's houses, from new excavations at the Uyak site, show entry passages half to fully the length of the rest of the house which was rectangular with a central stone slab hearth. The single rooms tend to be 13 feet square and have floor-level entrance passages. Part of a house of similar format was uncovered by the 1999 excavations at the Aleut Town site. At the Afognak River there are some single- and two-room rectangular house pits showing on the surface that appear to be Late Kachemak or just past Early Kachemak in age. Unlike the Uyak site houses, these do not have entry passages. The Afognak data show that Kachemak people built relatively permanent semisubterranian houses at their summer settlements.
Many Kachemak houses had clay-lined containers and pits built into the floor (illustrated in the books by Hrdlicka and by Heizer). This pattern is repeated on Afognak judging from a clay-lined pit seen at the Aleut Town site erosion exposure in 1964. The uses to which these pits were put it not clear, but they obviously relate to food preparation and storage. The pits evidently relied on the ability of clay to keep water in or air out. Curing of fish and meats under anaerobic (airless) conditions comes to mind as a possible use, otherwise wooden boxes and baskets would have sufficed.
KONIAG TRADITION, AD 1200 TO HISTORIC ALUTIIQ
The Koniags were the ancestors of the Alutiiqs prior the historic changes effected by Russian trade, administration and employment and other outside impacts. These followed the discovery of Kodiak in 1763 and conquest in 1784. The term "Alutiiq," which first entered the area through Russian usage, is useful for referring to the post-contact phase of the Koniag tradition. Some persons use "Alutiiq" also to refer to earlier times and peoples.
From historical ethnographies and collections dating back to the last decades of the 1700s, and from the remarkable recovery of ceremonial objects and other wooden artifacts from late-dating “wet” (waterlogged) sites, the Native people of the Kodiak Archipelago are among the better documented North American groups. Koniag tradition remains of the 600 years preceding the historic period are closely linked to the people whom the Russians subjugated. This contact, which the explorers documented, is the starting point for backstreaming or extending the historic identification of peoples back in time. It becomes more difficult to identify the carriers of Kachemak culture as Koniags or ancestral Alutiiqs, though that seems to be the case at least in part as there is a certain degree of continuity between the Koniag and Kachemak traditions. It is much more tenuous to identify the Ocean Bay people of 7000 years ago as ancestral Koniags (hence ancestral Alutiiqs), but again there is some cultural continuity between Ocean Bay and Kachemak 3800 years ago. Throughout time there may have been additions to the original population, but there is no firm evidence for complete population replacement at any time by conquest and migration.
The Koniag or Qikertarmiut (Island) Eskimos, among whom can be counted the Alutiiq ancestors of the Afognak islanders, numbered about 8000 at time of Russian conquest in 1784. However, the existence of many large abandoned second millennium AD archaeological sites throughout the archipelago suggests that there may have been even more people earlier. Alutiiq hunting techniques were so well adapted that they continued in use after European contact in order to meet the requirements of the fur trade and colonial subsistence, as also did Alutiiq settlement pattern. Much of Koniag technology was similar to that of the preceding Kachemak tradition, though there was ongoing development. As well, some of the tools now used on Kodiak are stylistically similar to ones used along the Bering Sea coast. The meaning of this has been the subject of scholarly debate. It is debated whether there was a major migration from the mainland or southern Bering Sea to Kodiak. Nevertheless, the Koniag archaeologic and ethnographic culture has come to resemble in many specific ways that of Bering Sea Eskimos while also exhibiting relationships to Aleutian Islanders and Northwest Coast peoples. As well, some Koniag features also are highly distinctive to the Pacific Coast and in this manner placed the early Native inhabitants of Afognak apart from more northerly speakers of Eskimo languages. These features include, for instance, petroglyphs, long slender ground slate whaling dart tips employed in a method of whaling very different from Eskimo harpooning, probable mummification and spruce root basketry.
Although the Koniag tradition is confined to the brief period of 600 years prior to European contact, plus a post-contact phase, there also was a Kachemak-Koniag transitional stage of perhaps two centuries duration. Change from Kachemak to Koniag, though not necessarily sudden, was more than a subtle transition. Almost everything that was Late Kachemak changed in the succeeding Koniag tradition during the centuries 1000 to 1300 A.D. In many cases these changes were compatible with the earlier lifeways and technology to which they were additions (or deletions) or simply minor shifts in styles. Nevertheless, some changes have major implications for social institutions and regional interactions. Pottery, for example, appeared locally but never became adopted on all parts of Kodiak and is missing from Afognak. This distribution demonstrates the variability that existed among the Koniags who probably were not a single, unitary tribe.
An important addition to the tool inventory was the heavy grooved splitting adze. This implement is especially common on Afognak, and also at Prince William Sound, and might be correlated with the need for split wood to heat rocks for the now very popular sweat bath. In the Koniag tradition there also is much greater evidence for heavy woodworking than there was in earlier times. Planing adze bits became one of the most abundant tools. Often they were converted into hammerstones after being damaged but sometimes they are found in perfect condition. Nevertheless, whalebone wedges for splitting wood were very common in the Kachemak tradition at the Aleut Town site, so possibly mainly a shift in techniques for processing wood is involved. Late in time the Koniags obtained or made a few tools pounded from native copper, a material traded from the mainland to the northeast. There is speculation that they also had iron. Although a few bone hafts seem to show rust stains, no iron has been recovered. Metal was carefully conserved, thus it is rare in archaeological sites.
The most fascinating artifacts are pebbles upon which stylized human faces have been scratched. Often the figurines are clothed. A few, hold a hoop rattle and thus provide suggestive clues that the figurines portray dancers at festivals. But they are found at both main or winter sites and summer salmon fishing camps, so their use was not limited to winter festivals. They appear mainly in Koniag times but the ritual for which thousands of these figures were produced and discarded at Settlement Point and other sites located around Marmot Bay and elsewhere appears to have lapsed a approximately a century before the Russians arrived. But first, the concept was copied by ancestral Tlingit Indians at Yakutat. This provides a clue that relationships around the Gulf of Alaska were not always hostile and that Alutiiqs and Tlingit Indians interacted socially before the Russians arrived.
A large Afognak Bay collection was recovered through controlled excavations at Settlement Point supervised by Patrick Saltonstall. Implements found there include bone arrows used to hunt birds, harpoon heads of both toggling and barbed non-toggling formats, fish hook shanks and barbs, notched cobble line weights, hones and whetstones, greenstone planing adze bits, elongate ground slate dart or spear heads with diamond cross section, ground slate ulus, labrets including some fashioned of ivory and jet, a rare tusk-shaped dentalium shell imported through middlemen from present British Columbia, stone lamps, and hundreds of incised pebble figurines. The spearheads with diamond cross section are a distinctive regional “horizon” style that spread quickly throughout the region from Prince William Sound to the western Alaska Peninsula early in the second millennium AD.
The Koniags developed a complex rectangular house with a large central common room, nine yards square in one Settlement Point example, and with several appended side chambers. Each attached chamber was occupied by a family which cooked in the common room. One room was for the steam bath. In the early 19th century, a house had 18 to 20 occupants. Houses were dug into the ground (semisubterranean). Dwellings built in this manner may have been easier to heat and provided better protection against storms and cold than ones built fully above the surface. Koniag construction was of the post and beam mode. Posts were erected – low ones near the walls, higher posts near the center – then beams were strung from post to post. Split slabs of wood were leaned against or placed over the beams. These in turn were banked and covered with turf for insulation and thatched to shed water. Portions of the walls may have been built of stacked sods alone but they would have been faced with matting. Driftwood was the source for fuel and timber for construction. It must have been in short supply after local accumulations were used up following initial settlement of a locality. Floors were covered only with grass, and sometimes gravel, which was renewed from time to time. Dried food was stored inside the house, At Settlement Point there were large clay-lined storage or food preparation pits within the houses. Kachemak houses also had numerous clay-lined pits, but of smaller size.
These large multifamily Koniag houses were very different from the small Late Kachemak houses. As Saltonstall expresses it, "Four hundred years prior to the occupation of Settlement Point, Alutiiq peoples lived in small (c. 20 square meters) single family dwellings. Yet when the Russians arrived in the late 1700’s they reported that the Alutiiq had chiefs, kept slaves and that several related families lived in one large (c. 60 square meters), multiple roomed house” (1977 report to Afognak Native Corporation). Pits from abandoned houses are large rectangles with one or two smaller subrectangular pits on the outside along each wall, joined to the main room by a short passage. The development of this type of Koniag house is poorly dated. Apparently it dates close to the beginning of the Koniag tradition, sometime between 900 and 1250 AD. Houses were heated from the earliest times (Ocean Bay) onward with interior hearths, which may have been used primarily for cooking. Stone lamps were for light, though they sometimes reached an impressive size of 100 pounds. There is a persistent story of a lamp on Afognak that is “too large to move." Lamps of this size would have served ritual and community needs.
Larger Koniag houses, compared with Kachemak houses, are interpreted as evidence of population increase. The overwhelming abundance of complex Koniag-style housepits at salmon streams, such Portage River (Discoverer Bay, arm of Perenosa Bay), the Karluk River, Ayakulik River and elsewhere further suggests a population increase during Koniag times.
The nine houses that comprised the Settlement Point village date to the three centuries immediately preceding about AD 1600 when the site was abandoned due to subsidence following a major earthquake. Some houses have multiple floors, indicating continued occupation after refurbishment. The floors consist of alternating layers of clean beach gravel and hard-packed housefloor. When the floor got too dirty with seal oil, food remains and charcoal the inhabitants recovered it with clean beach gravel and possibly also grass. Houses sometimes were rebuilt in place, establishing several centuries continuous occupation, at Karluk for instance. Excavations revealed holes from the many large posts required to support the roof. Each house had a hearth in the main room, contained within upright slate slabs. In some Settlement Point houses there are under the hearths pits full of charcoal and containing also fire-cracked rock. Saltonstall suggests that these may have been barbecue pits. To use them, meat would have been placed upon a bed of coals and heated rocks and then covered with soil or gravel to cook slowly.
Each house pit at Settlement Point has between one and eight side rooms. Side-rooms were slightly higher than main room, and were entered through a hatch and tunnel dug down about 16 inches lower than the floor. This type of entry formed a cold trap to prevent cool air from flowing out of the central room into the side chambers. These rooms are small, about 10 feet square.
In addition to the hearths and charcoal pits, each Settlement Point house has several storage or food preparation features built into the floor. These consist of clay lined pits, slate boxes and wooden boxes. The largest house has eight clay-lined pits, three slate boxes and one wood box. The clay-lined pits are larger than comparable features found in Kachemak sites, being 3 to 6 feet in diameter and 1.5 feet or more deep. There is tentative evidence that the clay pits contained salmon. The salmon would have kept cool in the subfloor environment and the pits, being made of clay, could have been sealed at the top to produce an air-free environment in which the fish would ferment but would not spoil. Slate boxes also were set into the floor. The slate lids had a slot or hole for a hand grip. In one house the lid and sides of the box were sealed together with clay and a hole through the lid also was capped and sealed. But the contents had disappeared without a trace: the interior of the box was an utter void even though the seal had not been broken for five centuries. Some clay pits and a few slate boxes were filled with fire-cracked cobbles that differ from the usual slaty “banya rock” also found at the site. These appear to be cooking features. Pits, boxes and other features in some houses are so numerous that it almost would have been impossible to move about inside. Probably, some pits were abandoned and had been filled in while others were in use.
Additional Koniag houses were partially revealed at Adze (AFG-012). One feature found there, but not at Settlement Point, is a stone-slab-covered sub-floor drain. A house pit had had been dug down to impervious glacial till, hence the need for the drain. Small boulders piled as many as five high, which probably were part of a wall, were seen at the eroded face at Adze. This wall is of especial interest inasmuch as stone construction like that has not been reported elsewhere for Koniag times.
TABLE 1. MAJOR CHANGING TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS ON AFOGNAK
Ocean Bay Kachemak Koniag
5000 BC 1800 BC 1200 AD
Microblades x x x x x
Major red ochre use x x x x x x x x x
Chert Industry x x x x x x x x x x x x less x x x x x x rare
Delicate needles x x x x x x x x x xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
Ground slate tools x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
ASTt artifacts x x x
Slate ulu knives x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
Giant-size ulus ? ? ? ? ? x x x
Sawn & scraped slate x x x x x x x x x x x x x
Labrets ? ? x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
Pebble net weights x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
Cobble line sinkers rare x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
Toggle harpoons ? ? x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
line holes ? ? ? x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
" " with shoulders x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x less common Lamp deity ? ? x x x x x x x x x x x
Ring & Pin game ? x x x
Clay-lined pits ? ? x x x x x x x x x x x x x large x x x x Steam bath x x x x x x x x x x
Planing adze uncommon rare common very abundant
Splitting adze ? x x x x x x x
Boat-shaped end blade
(projectile tip) ? x x x x x x x
projectile tip x x x x x x x ?
Large house x x x ? ? small x x x x x x x x
Pottery (on Kodiak) x x x x x x x x
Incised Slate figurines ? x x x x x x x
Head flattening ? ? ? ? x x x x
SETTLEMENTS AT AFOGNAK BAY
A cluster or row of houses, possibly a community hall, called a kashim by the Russians, and racks or stages for storage and equipment formed a village. There also were fish drying racks at summer settlements. The physical setting, such as beaches for landing boats also formed part of the settlement, although this varied from place to place. Koniag villages sometimes were 200 yards long. Many were larger than Early Kachemak and Ocean Bay villages, though data for the earlier cultures is from imprecise because most early village sites have been destroyed or reduced by erosion. Settlement was based primarily on large main villages, occupied during late autumn, winter and early spring, and summer salmon fishing villages. There probably were other kinds out-camps. Houses built at both winter and summer villages were similar in format, at least in their floor plans that survive as surface depressions. No summer camp houses have been excavated with the exception of a Kachemak house at Buskin Lake dug in 1999 by the Alutiiq Museum. Most settlements were laid out in a single row of houses along the shore. But some villages on Kodiak were so large in relation to their beach area that not all houses had frontage. Refuse, mostly shells, bones and fire-cracked rock was disposed of at the site. At minor sites there are such “middens” in front of and alongside the houses. As occupation continued, trash also was dumped in pits from abandoned houses. Then construction of new dwellings often shifted to old sanitized dumps where the shell matrix provided good drainage and easy digging for house depressions. In this way, thick midden sheets and mounds accumulated at the settlements with the longest occupation span.
Refuge islets and natural forts are especially interesting as evidence for increased population and warfare. The rocky headlands and cliff-bound islets of Kodiak provided many sites for such natural refuges, a settlement type initially identified in historical accounts. Houses on the refuge rocks were similar in plan and in interior layout to those of main villages, judging from Richard Knecht's excavation of Shelikhov's battle site at Sitkalidak Island. Most appear to be late-prehistoric Koniag, which accords well with hypotheses of the recent rise of warfare in the North Pacific region. However, very few refuge rocks have been investigated, most of them superficially. None has been found in Afognak Bay, but thus far there has not been adequate examination of potential “forts.”
In addition to the refuge islets which can be "defended" passively because they are almost unscalable, there are defensive sites. These have access only by way of steep slopes or along a limited front such as the neck of a headland, hence they would be relatively easy to defend. Again, no Afognak sites of this type have been recognized. Rather than concluding that peace reigned in the area, it appears that more appropriate sites need to be examined.
Appendix II describes all precontact archaeological settlement sites found in the vicinity of Afognak Bay. Here we will discuss them in a summary fashion. Danger Bay and eastward is outside the geographic scope of this section, as also are sites around Whale Island and any along Afognak Strait.
There are about 29 settlement and camp sites around Afognak Bay (Table 2). Some are minor or now have been completely washed away, as the observations date back to 1951. Additional sites must have existed earlier, but now are totally lost from the record. Finally, some small sites likely remain to be discovered. We have divided the bay into inner and outer zones. The inner zone is, essentially the mouth of the Afognak River but includes also a shallow water site at the head of nearby Back Bay. People would have moved to the inner settlements in the late spring and summer to catch and process salmon. They could have remained there until December to catch silver salmon if other priorities did not draw them elsewhere. Between the peaks of the runs they would have had time to make equipment, hunt out on the outer bay and do other things. People also paddled or trekked out o the bay part way to gather shell fish, but it was not as convenient to do that from inner sites as it was from outer sites. During Koniag times a lot of effort must have been put in on making wooden equipment as adze bits are one of the most common artifacts found along the eroded shores of Litnik on the lagoon of the Afognak River. The inventory from the two Koniag sites there consists of 28.7 percent adzes (of which 8.9 % are splitting adzes). This exceeds the frequency of ulu blades (23.8%) which are one of the most important implements at a fishing camp. But in the Kachemak area of Litnik (exclusive of the Ocean Bay II-Kachemak transitional site AFO-088) the frequency of adzes (none of them splitting adzes) drops to 1.6 percent, though ulu blades also drop to a modest 10.5 percent. Cobble spalls seem also to have been used to process fish. The combined cobble spall and ulu blade frequency is nearly equal between the two occupations at 26.8 percent for the Koniag area and 23.4 percent for the Kachemak area. When winter came, the river and tidal estuary froze hard and some years snow accumulated deeply. The inner area was not a place to live during winter and early spring, so people spent most of the year at the outer sites. There are about thirteen inner sites, more or less, depending upon how one subdivides the line-up of camps around the mouth of the Afognak River, but two are historic. There are eighteen known outer sites though the original number must have been greater. Most outer sites belong to the late
TABLE 2. ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AT AFOGNAK BAY
No./Name Siting Size Culture Condition Notes
|AFG-002||Outer Destroyed 2 middens seem in 1964|
|AFG-003||Outer 30 yards L Historic & Eroded 2 ft thick midden plus 20 yd
+ 20 yards precontact? thin band at base of Katmai
|AFG-004||Outer 82 yards L. Alutiiq, Kon- Front greatly 5 ft thick. Tested in 1999
Aleut Town 25 yards W iag, Kachemak cut back
|AFG-005||Outer Was 70 yd L. Koniag? Destroyed Faces petroglyphs, much FCR|
|AFG-007||Outer Small Koniag Destroyed 1 house atop bank, slumped|
|AFG-008||Inner, 140 yards L. Ocean Bay I Badly Tested, description, collections
Chert site estuary Ocean Bay II eroded and dates are published
|AFG-009||Inner, Large Hist. Alutiiq Edges eroded House pits and fire-cracked
Litnik lagoon & Koniag deposits
|AFG-010||Inner Large Kachemak & Edges badly Variable determiners but no
estuary composite historic eroded middens
|AFG-011||Inner, 43 yards L. Ocean Bay II Edge badly Tested, description, collections,
Slate site estuary eroded and 14-C dates are published
|AFG-012||Outer 40 yards L. Koniag Much L & W Tested in 1951 and 1995
Adze + much lost lost thick deposits, once important
|AFG-013||Outer small Koniag Some slump Annex of AFG-012 across rill|
|AFG-014||Outer 36 yards L. Koniag Intact 2 house pits|
|AFG-015||Outer Large Koniag Largely Excavated by Dig Afognak,
Settlement Pt. 7 houses? intact reports and dates by Saltonstall
|AFG-016||Outer 240 yards Koniag Badly cut Sandy deposits, house pits, fire-
Kigalak once back cracked rock
|AFG-019?||Inner 90 yards L. Koniag Eradicated Once 2 house pits, much FCR|
|AFG-020||Outer 105 yds L. Koniag Edges badly In segments, creek runs through
Marka Bay up to 35 W eroded
|AFG-088||Inner 90 yards L. Transitional Badly cut Test pits, collections and 14-C
estuary narrow OB-Kachemak back dates are published, no midden
|AFG-211, 212||Inner, Large Historic & pre- Undisturbed Koniag-style house pits, next to
Litnik river contact Alutiiq 1800s weir
|AFG-213||Inner Historic & pre- Edges eroded House pits and fire-cracked
Litnik lagoon contact Alutiiq rock deposit
|Inner Large Kachemak, Some edges Variable determiners, some
estuary other early eroded house pit, no middens
|AFG-216||Inner, Small Ocean Bay I Badly Stone artifacts present in thin
Estuary Islet estuary eroded layer, little of site remains
|AFG-225||Inner Koniag Low elevation, flooded?|
|AFG-235||Outer 51 yards Koniag Eroded 2 segments, multi-room house|
|AFG-236||Outer 4 x 9 yards Koniag?? Remnant 14 in. thick midden|
|AFG-237||Outer 13 x 9 yards Kachemak Edge eroded Thin, early Kachemak? Graveyard Outer A few yards Unknown Edge eroded Shell midden, eroding graves recorded in 1984|
FCR = Fire-Cracked Rock
Koniag tradition while the inner sites represent the entire span of prehistory. This may be laid to the fact that erosion has been more severe in the outer zone, and the early sites once present there had been subject to attrition for a much longer period than the Koniag tradition sites. The latter represent only 700 years, the earlier sites more than 6000 years.
To close in on the near past of the Alutiiq people of Afognak, the Koniag sites will be considered further. These number twelve sites, exclusive of three inner sites which are thought to be seasonal aspects of outer settlements. The twelve range in size from a single house to nine houses at Settlement Point. The 200-yard long site facing Kugilak Beach now has seven or more houses somewhat confused from secondary use for garden plots. Prior to extensive erosion there could have been many more house remains at this village. The Aleut Town site may also have been a substantial village, but house pits no longer are clear on the surface due to late historic occupation. Among the ten Koniag tradition sites of the outer area, some villages probably had been abandoned by the time others were occupied. Nevertheless it appears that more than one main settlement and also some of the small sites were inhabited concurrently. The site Adze has radiocarbon dates that place it within the time range of the nearby Settlement Point village. This poses questions as to how these villages were allied or cooperated to share game, fisheries, bird rookeries and driftwood in the relatively localized area of Afognak Bay, and whether they ever came together under a single leader for ceremonies, trading trips and war and defense.
A broad spectrum of food resources was harvested, but as yet few data have been published other than for mammals at Late Kachemak and Koniag sites, and these sites are on Kodiak. An analysis of the faunal refuse from Settlement Point by Megan Partlow is expected to be completed in late 1999.
Faunal analyses show that uniformity in subsistence through time was not the case. While one can assume that there was a tendency to utilize all available resources, availability may have varied from time to time and place to place and accounts state that there were preferences..
Sea otter may have been utilized as food mainly during the Ocean Bay tradition. They are said not to be very palatable. Fox bones are abundant in Kachemak tradition sites where this animal evidently was consumed for food. They also are variably present later in Koniag tradition refuse. Dog is moderately common in both Kachemak and Koniag deposits, and there also is some evidence that it was eaten (cut marks on bones, opened brain cases) though the abundant dog remains recovered from the Aleut Town midden at Afognak do not bear these indications. During much of prehistory the most commonly hunted sea mammals were porpoises, except at Aleut Town where porpoise is rare, and especially harbor seal. A small number of fur seals also were taken. Northern sea lion were hunted but, like whales, it is difficult to assess their importance because the meat may have been stripped from the bones at the kill site. The same applies to brown bears which were harvested to a limited extent, a limiting factor being the size of the bear population of no more than a few thousand animals for the entire archipelago. Some caribou meat was imported, especially by Koniag villages located on Shelikof Strait across from the Alaska Peninsula.
The Koniags are known to have been avid whalers. This animal is accorded great importance in ethnographic accounts and the contribution of whale oil and meat to the diet reportedly was significant. Whale bones are found in sites of all periods and were modified to make implements from the earliest time onward. At contact and in early historic times whales were struck with long slate-tipped darts smeared with aconite poison. The poison destabilized the whale by crippling the flipper muscle, so the whale would drown (see Bisset ref.). Then it rose in a few days and started drifting. The long slate tips used on historic whaling darts have not been recovered from precontact archaeological deposits, but Koniag whaling ritual and ceremonialism are sufficiently imbedded in lore, art and customs that whaling obviously was indigenous, not a Russian introduction.
The case for the surround method of hunting sea otters being indigenous requires further examination but that cannot be done here. In this technique, several hunters in kayaks surround and harass individual otters which seldom escape from being struck by a harpoon-dart or harpoon arrow.
A number of wild plants and berries that were collected for food and medicines, but the quantitative measure of their contribution to nutrition before commercial foodstuffs became available has not been established. The Kamchatka or "chocolate" lily (Fritallaria, sarana), which has a bulb composed of rice-like granules, was harvested and stored under Russian direction. Earlier, Alutiiqs very likely did the same. Wild celery (cow parsnip Heracleum and Angelica) also was eaten, sometimes confused with water hemlock and thus only one time. Sour dock (Rumex) also bears mentioning. Two forms of cranberries, high bush and lingenberry are abundant and store well. The salmon berry, for which Kodiak is renowned, keeps poorly and, like most berries, is subject to poor crop years. It was eaten mainly in season.
Historic accounts together with the range of archaeological fishing implements and layers of fish bones in ancient refuse dumps show that fishing was a major occupation. Detailed analyses of fish remains have not been published, but cod, sculpin, halibut and many species of smaller fish evidently were caught by hook and line or with nets and possibly also spears. At one site, at the head of Larsen Bay, David Yesner identified equal numbers of salmon and Pacific cod, and uncommon rockfish. Megan Partlow also found cod and salmon co-dominant at Settlement Point.
Hypothetically, with adequate storage and preservation the salmon fishery could have fed an immense population on the Kodiak Archipelago. In 1995, a peak year, the catch of pink salmon in the Kodiak district was more than 30 million fish, to which several million salmon of other species can be added. But there are several reasons why it was neither practical nor possible for salmon alone to support a very large population. These include the occurrence of alternating good and poor years for pink salmon, longer cycles or trends of shifting abundance, and bad years for drying and preserving fish. There is also the danger of overfishing small streams and killing off the runs which would leave people dependent on access to the larger salmon streams. Moreover, it was critically important to balance the diet with foods other than fish and to provide proper nutrition throughout the year. Inasmuch as the land fauna and plant foods that would do this were inadequate on Kodiak, the need remained to round out the diet with sea mammals, especially their fats to meet the high energy demands of North Pacific sea hunters. Large amounts of shellfish also were eaten, judging from the volume of shell dumps. While shellfish provided variety and important minerals and trace elements and served as a mainstay when fish and other meat was in short supply, they are very low in calories.
Fishing was done with hook or gorge and line in the sea, spears, nets, and with weirs in conjunction with spears or gaffs and possibly traps at salmon streams. Direct evidence for the use of nets consists primarily of numerous notched pebble sinkers found at some Kachemak sites, as at the mouth of the Afognak River, and of net floats found at Koniag wet sites. (There also are mesh gauges, but they could have been used to make bird nets as well as fishing nets.) Heavier notched and grooved cobbles were for weighting lines to fish in the sea. It also was possible to use unmodified cobbles for this purpose.
Birds and fowl of almost every kind were utilized, primarily for food but also for skins for clothing, and for feathers and bills for ornamentation. A list of 49 species has been drawn up from the bird bones that Hrdlicka collected at the Uyak Site.
Nearly everything found in the littoral zone, between high and low tide, was collected and eaten. Shell is a main component of midden deposits. Shell reflects subsistence more directly than other types of faunal refuse because virtually nothing is stripped away and left at the "kill site" (which is the beach), and consumption dared not be delayed long and usually was local. However, whole clams were taken inland to fishing camps, on Karluk Lake for instance. The main components of shell middens are blue mussel; clams, especially butter clams (Saxidomus) and cockles (Clinocardium) and a few "horse" clams (Spisula), littleneck clams (Prototheca), Maya, and Tellina; green sea urchins; the tiny periwinkle in immense numbers, and smaller amounts of "dog winkles" (Thais); large whelks (sea snails Neptunea); chitons; barnacles and limpets. Razor clams are found at only a few beaches and are rare in the middens. Octopus were caught but their remains do not survive. Proportions vary from site to site. Crab, of which there are several edible species in shallow and offshore waters and even on the flats at minus tide (especially Dungeness), is absent in the middens. Massive harvests of blue mussels, clams, periwinkles and green sea urchins often resulted in the formation of relatively pure layers of these species in the shell middens. Usually, though, there is a mix of assorted shellfish, fish bones, mammal bones, soil, and burned rock. The waters of Kodiak are highly susceptible to paralytic seafood poisoning or "red tide" which can be fatal when infested clams and mussels are eaten.
Analyses are not available for Kachemak tradition middens at Afognak Bay. The 1999 collection from Aleut Town is of modest scope – insufficient for a comprehensive report – and to date has not been studied. We can note the mammal remains collected from the Crag Point site in 1964. Crag Point is located on Marmot Bay within sight of Afognak. For Late Kachemak times the following bones were found by D. Clark:
harbor seal 45.1%
fur seal 5.4%
sea lion 1.1%
sea otter 0.3%
river otter 3.0%
domestic dog 2.4%
Kodiak bear 3.0%
Preliminary inspection of the Aleut Town collection indicates that dog is more common there but that porpoise is scarce, and as expected harbor seal and fox are abundant. Most of the fox mandibles bear cutting marks on the body and the upswept portion, termed "ascending ramus" by anatomist. The cuts probably indicating both careful skinning in order to recover the entire pelt and severance of the lower jaw and cranium. The reason for the latter operation has not been determined.
All of the uncommon bear and sea otter bones at Crag Point (and also at Three Saints, another Kachemak site) were modified. They had been used for games (sea otter) and evidently for material for tools (bear). Those from Afognak remain to be examined. A small dog is represented among the Crag Point remains. Wm. Haag reported two sizes of dogs at the Uyak site, and Afognak Islanders probably also kept two types of dogs. Dog skulls found in 1999 at Aleut town are neither small nor are they as large as Eskimo dogs.
[Note to editor: The nearest Koniag faunal analyses presently are for sites located near Old Harbor at Rolling Bay and Kiavak Bay. Reporting for Settlement Point is forthcoming in 1999 or 2000. The results should be incorporated into the present report before it goes to press.]
Editorial note: Positioning of the petroglyph section to be determined.
Petroglyphs are designs carved into rock outcrops and boulders. Usually they are made by pecking with a hammerstone, though sometimes glyphs are chiseled or sawn. They are one of the most common types of “rock art,” another common type being rock painting. Rock paintings are found in outer Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound but are not confirmed for Afognak and Kodiak.
The largest petroglyph site in the Kodiak region is at Cape Alitak where hundreds of figures are scattered over acres of smooth granitic rock surfaces. Several additional petroglyph localities have been found on Kodiak and Afognak. They usually consist of small clusters of figures and even isolated carvings. The sites are inconspicuous and easily overlooked, so additional localities may exist. The following ones are on Afognak:
Discoverer Bay (Perenosa Bay) lagoon
Peril Cape (single large figure, reported, not recorded)
Inner end of Afognak Village, also...
Port Lions (solitary face on boulder, reported but not recorded)
Description of Afognak Sites
The figures at Marka Bay are located on seaward facing surfaces of a dike or seam igneous rock that, when it was molten, was forced into a crack in rocks of the slate-graywacke group. The dike is exposed on a boulder strewn shore that even before 1964 was submerged at high tide. The dike rises about two yards above beach level for about 20 yards, but petroglyphs are found along only part of it. They are very faint and only eight figures could be followed with clarity when the locality was recorded by Clark in 1964. Judging from additional unclear traces, at least 30 figures may have been present originally. The figures range in size from about 4 to 12 inches. This is small as far as some petroglyphs go, but the Lipsett Point and Afognak Village land Cape Alitak figures also are small, the latter, according to Heizer, ranging from 6 to 24 inches. Those at Marka Bay represent faces, whether human or mythical beings, whales, a dancing or drumming figure, and possibly a geometric sign.
In 1995 the locality was reexamined by Dig Afognak staff. After subsidence the figures had become densely covered by blue mussels and barnacles. A few were scraped clear, reexposed and photographed. Patrick Saltonstall then revisited the site in 1996 and found that figures exposed the preceding year again were obscured by barnacles. One would expect from the condition of this site that there are additional totally obscured petroglyphs within the intertidal zone around Afognak.
Two petroglyph panels were found in 1971 on an inclined slate outcrop facing upriver along the tidal reach of the Afognak River. The panels are separated by a fissure little more than a foot wide and may belong together. The larger panel is three feet wide and seven feet long. The petroglyphs consist of small weathered pecked cup-shaped depressions and sawn grooves. Many of the grooves appear to be random but they occur in swarms with a common orientation. There also are many four-, six- and eight-rayed stars formed by the intersection of short lines. One starred hexagon and a few rectangles complete the group. The pits or cups may not be of the same age as the sawn lines. Since other slate outcrops and some boulders were available at this locality for petroglyphs, it can be assumed that the person who made the cups was aware of the sawn glyps and combined the two purposefully (or the reverse). The cups show much greater weathering than the sawn lines, but their condition might be a factor of their having been made by percussion or fracturing and pulverizing the stone instead of sawing.
Boulders in the lagoon at the salmon stream at Discoverer Bay (in Perenosa Bay) also have cup shaped depressions, and a boulder at the shore end of a stone fish weir there has sawn cuts one to five inches long.
A dike of igneous rock, similar to the one found at Marka Bay but less prominent, outcrops on the beach immediately inside Lipsett Point, well out from the upper edge of the shore. However, the shore has eroded and has shifted inland many yards since subsidence in 1964, with the consequent loss of a small Koniag site and historic garden plots. Part of a small badly eroded panel of petroglyphs has survived on an outward facing surface. The figures appear to be generally above tide water but are in the splash zone as a few barnacles are present. Part of this surface had fallen away in the past. Presently, three or four figures can be counted. The clearest ones are a face and a small dancing or drumming figure (an object held high by one arm could be either a drum or a ceremonial object). They were recorded by the Dig Afognak project in 1998. Outcrops of similar rock found along the western shore of Afognak Bay were examined but no additional petroglyphs were found.
Just beyond the northeast end of Afognak village is a small panel of faces on a vertical seaward-facing surface of a graywacke ledge. Adjacent surfaces, equally suited for rock art, appear to have been ignored by the petroglyph mason. This published site is well known. The faces are wearing labrets, and thus may portray humans. The site remains generally above the level of high tide, though during one visit a few periwinkles were seen lodged in the facial grooves.
Analysis, Comparisons, Distribution
Three types of petroglyphs are found on Afognak Island: (a) sawn lines and sawn geometric figures, (b) small cup-shaped depressions, and (c) pecked figures portraying mainly faces, full figures and whales or other sea mammals. All, to some degree, are compositions or parts of compositions rather than random occurrences. Thematically, the pecked figures show various topics at each site, but they are brought together and tightly localized in small areas. The limitation at each site to a cluster of a few figures seems to have been done on purpose and further suggests that each locality was conceptually unified.
The Afognak River sawn glyph panel is another example of either a planned production or at least of respect for the work already present on the stone surface. None of the starred figures intersect. As well, no major long sawn line runs through any starred figure. The cup marks are another matter. They intercept or are intercepted by cut lines.
Kodiak and Afognak Island are at the northwestern limit of a rock art distribution that extends along the coast of Alaska from British Columbia and other areas of North America. Afognak and Kodiak are of especial interest inasmuch as, with rare exceptions, these islands host the only examples of petroglyphs found in the region inhabited by peoples of the Eskimo family. There appears to be a degree of relatedness between the Kodiak petroglyphs and those of the coast of southeast Alaska and British Columbia, especially as seen in the treatment of faces. Afognak petroglyph making, and the reasons for it, may have been stimulated by contact with people from that area. But similarities between the petroglyphs of interior Siberia and the Kodiak archipelago also can be noted, though between Afognak and Siberia there is an immense region devoid of petroglyphs. In either case, resemblance may be coincidental because similar things, such as human faces, are being portrayed. The petroglyphs of the Kodiak Islands thus remain mysterious and isolated.
Cup-shaped depressions, often confined to boulders, have a very widespread distribution in western North America. Often they are found at streams that carry runs of salmon. For the most part the diverse people who made these “cups” or pitted stones had no direct contacts between one another. Yet, we may wonder if they were not produced in response to some unidentified widely diffused pan-tribal belief.
The motives of the anonymous ancient stone carvers are obscured by time and my be in the realm of mystery (in the religious sense). But the circumstantial evidence of site location, directional orientation of the figures, and topics portrayed provide clues.
With the exception of the sawn glyphs and cup marks found at the mouth of Afognak River and the stream at Perenosa Bay (and also Karluk Lagoon), the figures face towards open water or towards bay entrances, not inland. They are situated close to tide level, one site being submerged at high tide even prior to subsidence in 1964. Suitable smooth rock surfaces could have been found along shoreline bluffs at higher elevations, but these were not utilized.
The geometric and simple linear shapes of the sawn glyphs differs from others, in part due to the limitation of using the sawing technique. The location of cup and sawn petroglyphs at the mouths of salmon streams suggests that they pertained to beliefs for welcoming, controling or propagating salmon.
Other glyphs evidently were made to be seen from the sea, either by human travelers, sea animals or supernatural beings. Possibly they simply were markers that advertised ownership of fishing and hunting rights in up-bay areas, especially at the salmon streams. But alerting people from other areas to this fact could have been accomplished by more visible means. Instead, the messages of the figures may have been directed to beings in of the sea. Along with this possible function, their obscurity may have reinforced the establishment of an in-group, of people who shared the esoteric knowledge of where to find the glyphs, traveled and saw and touched them, and returned home empowered, like members of a secret fraternity.
The mix of motifs consisting of symbols, of faces which in many cases show human attributes, the presence of dancing persons or drummers, common to Marka Bay, Lipsett Point and Cape Alitak, and also of whales shows that the story or message communicated through these sets of carvings was complex and detailed. Whale figures most certainly pertained to whales or whaling, and dancers and drummers may signify ceremonies and welcoming, but the meanings of symbols are more obtuse. Desson in her dissertation, for instance, points out that a circle painted on the prow of a whale hunter’s kayak was in fact a “trap” that worked like the trap formed by dragging a pouch of fat extracted from a human corpse across the mouth of a bay within which the whale had been struck.
The durability of rock considered in the light of the obviously weathered and eroded condition of many of the petroglyphs suggests considerable age for the figures. However great antiquity may not actually be the case.
A small painted box panel from the Karluk wet site has a face similar to the Afognak Village faces with lines extending downward from the eyes. The Karluk specimen dates to the centuries just before Russian contact. Such eye motifs also are found sometimes on Alutiiq masks and on small squatting-man figurines for hunting hats common to the Koniag archaeological phase of the second millennium AD.
The Marka Bay site was submerged at high tide even before the land sank in 1964. Thus, that locality probably had been subject to relatively rapid erosion, which is not favorable for petroglyphs to last very long. Following a major earthquake about 1150 AD, all the Afognak petroglyphs likely were submerged, at least at high tide. Later, the land rebounded, but during the interval of subsidence and heightened erosion is possible that all petroglyphs existing at that time were severely eroded. Accordingly, those seen now could postdate 1150 AD according to geologist Gary Carver.
THE SURVIVAL OF THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD
In the beginning, Afognak was settled by people who found there “a place in the sun” [Hrdlicka’s expression] following an earlier existence on the Alaskan mainland and along the Bering Sea. The island was a platform in the sea – a strand along which these hypothetical first settlers placed their villages, from which they gathered littoral products and driftwood, and from which they fished and hunted at sea.
As a consequence of this mode of living at the edge of the sea, the unstoppable process of coastal erosion has washed away most of the archaeological record that once existed on Afognak. The short-term effect of tidal waves in 1964 was to tear out chunks of some sites and redeposit sediments from shallow bays atop sites at the heads of inlets, but the effects of the land dropping six feet were much more drastic. At high tide waves ate away at sites, opening them to erosion and cutting back their margins. Some sites were reduced by two or three yards, others were more extensively eroded and some were completely obliterated. But now, with the beaches and littoral zone being lower, larger waves ran up onto the shore, shoving sand, gravel and cobbles inward to the upper beach limit, sometimes overriding the old edge of the shore and creating new storm berms. Later, during the years after subsidence the land gradually rebounded, for example, thus far regaining about half the elevation lost at Afognak Bay in 1964. The shores are being restored to a seemingly pristine condition and the only clues to what had transpired are, temporarily, the dead trees that rise from the tidal zone and from the new storm berms. There also is the permanent record of deposits from tidal waves that can be “read” by the prying eyes of geologists. But there is one difference: the remains of once mighty village sites and midden mounds and rows of old house pits are gone, except sometimes for their inner fringes. A newcomer sees the land as if they never had existed. This is what happened to many sites after 1964. Similar events occurred in the past, leaving, after rebound, reconstituted shores and beaches minus older deposits and sites, and we do not see the land as it once existed. Geologists have read clues, though, that the last major pre-1964 event of this kind was about 1150 AD.
As part of the past experiences of Afognak Islanders, earthquakes and tidal waves also posed a threat to living communities. But it is not known that they had any disastrous effects on the inhabitants, though these events probably damaged their houses, destroyed their equipment and provisions, and made it necessary to relocate some villages.
LINKS TO THE HISTORIC ALUTIIQ OF AFOGNAK
A number of late prehistoric sites, nevertheless, have survived, or partially survived destruction by the natural elements. A critical problem is to link their former inhabitants to the people first encountered by the Russians and to the historic Alutiiq inhabitants of Afognak Village, a topic that returns the reader to the beginning of this chapter. Thus far, archaeological investigation has failed to identify any “contact” sites occupied in the late 1700s. Within a decade or two after contact, at the beginning of the 1800s, when early maps and records of settlements start to become available, there were several villages under Russian administration on Afognak Island. One at Afognak Bay was part of the village area later called "Afognak," the other, later called “Little Afognak,” was at Duck Bay. There also was a fishing settlement at Malina Creek. Kataaq, the Russian-Alutiiq workers artel at Settlement Point, appears on later maps (but by name it appears earlier). Although these locations are identified as company settlements, some are also the site of precontact settlements. The evidence, some of it inferential, strongly suggests that Selezneva (Mali or Little Afognak) and Malinovskie Litnik or Nunalik (Malina Creek) were already occupied at the time of Russian contact. There has been a dig at Malina Creek but the results have not been analysed. On the other hand, it is quite certain that the “octopus” houses at Settlement Point and also the Adze site near Back Bay were abandoned well before Russian contact. As yet, too, no historic material has been identified from the large site at the Driftwood Beach which was tested in a minor way in 1999. Nevertheless there are Russian period "octopus" houses on the Afognak River and just downstream from these houses there are areas of precontact occupation. Very likely there was continuity across the precontact/historic temporal boundary at Litnik on the Afognak River, but these are summer fishing villages and we can expect to find main villages in the vicinity, closer to the outer coast. Elimination of these settlements severely limits the field of candidates for sites of Russian contact (1780s) and early contact period interaction (the next decades). At Afognak Village, the midden mound AFG-004 coincides with the area later identified as an Aleut village or “Aleut Barabaras” on mid-19th century maps. When Lt. Davydov visited this locality in 1802 there was a small Russian station there of the type termed odinochka. AFG-004, the Aleut Town site, is a strong candidate for early historic or Russian period occupation and even the point of initial contact (which supposes that the village was there before the odinochka). However, testing in 1999 found neither early historic occupation nor contact and precontact Alutiiq occupation (the site is mainly Kachemak in age). In this case, though, the record may be incomplete inasmuch as erosion has removed somewhat more than the outer half of the site and the top of the site may have been levelled during the last 100 years to accommodate frame houses and log cabins. Moreover, there are two additional occupation areas in the same vicinity north of Graveyard Point, marked by thin midden layers, that could have been loci of early Alutiiq and historic occupation. One gets a negative reading, though, when in reference to the Rubtsov odinochka (at later Afognak Village), "odinochka" is defined as "a place where there was no original native settlement" (p. 114).
Nevertheless, there was a Native settlement close enough to the odinochka for Davydov to visit it during a day excursion in which he recounts having to go to the settlement to dry out after capsizing his kayak (p. 115). Davydov's account is of uncertain value and suffers from some telescoping of events but he seems to indicate an Alutiiq settlement plus the artel Igvak (Kataaq) and an odinochka in the greater Afognak Bay. It will take further careful archaeological work to determine if there were Alutiiqs on the shore at Afognak village (1964 contiguous settlement area) and elsewhere on Afognak Bay to meet the first boat with Russian inspectors who arrived as early as 1786. Although the artel at Kataaq (Katanee) is early, investigation there by K. Woodhouse-Beyer has not revealed precontact occupation. Lydia Black has suggested to the author that the notation "zhilishche" on a map by Izmailov published in 1787 probably refers to a Native settlement. Its location is Afognak Bay, but given the level of accuracy of the map it cannot be pinpointed further. With this documentation it is not wholly necessary to have in hand physical evidence, from the ground, of a contact village although it is immensely satisfying to have such ancestral relics.
Interestingly, too, Davydov equated Igvetsk artel to Afognak in 1802. Was this locality actually Afognak village at that time? Unfortunately none of the early records that use place names give exact locations. Igvetsk is an inflected form of Igvak which is an alternate name for the artel or locality Kataaq. Igvak means "a step across." We infer that to mean that it was located across from some significant place of reference, e.g., the odinochka or Aleut village at Afognak. "Igvik" or "Igwik" also occurs on an 1804 settlement list reported by Gideon which originally may have been compiled by Baranov or Bolotov in 1795 (research by Lydia Black). It appears, thus, that there were interacting communities on Afognak Bay as early as 1795. At least one of them, actually published in 1787, was Alutiiq.
KACHEMAK AND THE KONIAG ROOTS OF ALUTIIQ CULTURE
Hrdlicka had proposed that the Koniags suddenly and completely replaced those of their Kachemak predecessors. Various lines of reasoning suggest also that there has been linguistic change or replacement in the Pacific area resulting in a Yupik Eskimo dialect being spoken there at the time of European contact, especially as essayed by D. Dumond. The possibility of migration and ethnic succession on Kodiak, whether or not this coincides with the beginning of the Koniag tradition and establishment of the ancestral Alutiiq people, thus has been discussed extensively. At the end of the Kachemak tradition and during the Koniag tradition there were notable changes in material and social culture. Something very significant may have happened in prehistory, but there are several ways of looking at the evidence. Some changes might be viewed as an updating of co-membership in the community of Eskimo cultures. There also could have been population interchange or movement of families and small-scale migration, but large-scale migration with population displacement or assimilation and sudden ethnic succession is a less likely explanation. To assess the impact of migration in dribbles, the Koniags and their predecessors on Kodiak and Afognak should not be thought of as a single tribe but as an aggregation of many village or local tribes. The history of one local tribe was not necessarily that of the whole population. The geographical location of Afognak made relationships with diverse ethnic groups possible.
HISTORY OF FIELD EXPLORATION
Serious attention was first given to the archaeology of Kodiak Island in 1931. In that year Ales Hrdlicka of the Smithsonian Institution began several years of excavations and thus became the father of Kodiak prehistoric studies. Though his excavation methods were crude, he wrote a daily tale of discovery which made his book, The Anthropology of Kodiak Island popular among the public. This report devoted largely to the Uyak or "Our Point" site at Larsen Bay also was carefully scrutinized by archaeologists, for Hrdlicka’s contested interpretations set the primary research question for the next generation of prehistorians. Hrdlicka did not visit Afognak, but while he was at Kodiak he polled local persons for information and obtained reports of old village sites at Afognak Village, Litnik, Settlement Point, Little Afognak and MacDonald Lagoon.
After the excavations at Larsen Bay, there was a lull in archaeological work on Kodiak. The next sustained digs were those of the University of Wisconsin Aleut-Konyag Project in 1961 through 1964. This project focused largely on the southeast part of Kodiak but included also small-scale excavations near Crag Point situated at the entrance to Anton Larsen Bay and a reconnaissance of Marmot Bay by skiff in 1964 to examine sites damaged by tidal waves and erosion by the sea. A number of these sites had been recorded previously by D. Clark who had traveled in the area in 1951.
Major aspects of the prehistory of Kodiak Island still remained poorly known, and since 1964 this gap in knowledge has stimulated been many archaeological projects on Kodiak and Afognak. In 1971 D. Clark and William Workman, of the Canadian Museum of Civilization and Alaska Methodist University respectively, excavated deposits of the earliest known peoples in the area, the Ocean Bay culture tradition at two sites located at the mouth of the Afognak River. There was a pause in field work until 1977 when a continuing series of more or less unrelated government agency surveys and excavations began.
In 1983 Richard Jordan and his students, from Bryn Mawr College and later the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, organized the Kodiak Archaeological Project which through 1987 focused on excavations at Karluk, the Uyak site near Larsen Bay and Crag Point. Most of the rather numerous subsequent projects on Kodiak can be traced to personnel introduced to the island by this project. A list of excavations can be found in the Clark 1995 publication.
To this list we can add test excavations done on Shuyak Island by Binghamton University, New York, and by the State Office of Historic Preservation as followup checks for any damage by the EXXON Valdez oil spill. Recent work done on southern Afognak Island includes two-years of excavation at Malina Creek in 1992 and 1993 by Richard Knecht, then with the Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA), supported by the Afognak Native Corporation; an excavation at a Koniag (ancestral Alutiiq) village at Settlement Point during 1994-1997 by Patrick Saltonstall; excavation of historic Kataaq or Katanee by Katharine Woodhouse-Beyer in 1994-1998 and minor investigations at the mouth of the Afognak River by D. Clark in 1995-1997. The last three projects were part of the Afognak Native Corporation Dig Afognak program. Additional surveys, especially by Steffian and Saltonstall, have continued to provide information as recently as 1998. In addition, there exist restricted files and videotapes from the EXXON Valdez oil spill cleanup.
In 1999 the Aleut Town site, located at the northerly end of Afognak Village, was tested for the Native Village of Afognak by the Afognak Native Corporation. A four by six meter block was excavated to the base of the site under the direction of D.W. Clark. Deposits from a Kachemak tradition occupation were encountered below historic American period occupation. This had been preceded in 1997 by a one-meter-square exploratory test pit excavated by Katharine Woodhouse-Beyer to the base of the site and nearby another test square taken part way to the base by Robert Koperl with an emphasis on sampling fish remains in the midden.
SITES AT AFOGNAK BAY
This appendix describes all precontact archaeological settlement sites found in the vicinity of Afognak Bay. The four known petroglyph sites are described elsewhere. The full site list is given with the intent of conveying a feeling for the magnitude of ancestral Alutiiq use of the area, even though many sites have been eradicated by erosion. The area of Danger Bay and eastward is outside the geographic scope of this section, and sites around Whale Island, along Afognak Strait and around Little Raspberry Island are not discussed due to lack of information.
The Appendix starts with inner sites; elsewhere Table 2 lists the sites in the order of their State of Alaska numeric code designation. The distinction between outer sites and river estuary or inner sites is in part based on the potential of the latter for salmon fishing but also the fact that the formation of thick ice late in the winter which would have made the river estuary seasonally unfavorable for occupation.
The Afognak River Complex
Starting in open fields just below the falls, both sides of the Afognak River are lined with sites for a distance of one and a half miles to its mouth. There is a temporal progression, running upstream, from the oldest sites to the youngest ones. They are described here by zones, starting with those located farthest upstream.
Salmon Weir Vicinity, AFG 211, AFG 212
House pits appear as soon as one emerges from the spruce forest, a short distance below the falls above the salmon-counting weir. (Little checking was done within the forest for the extension of sites.) The weir is located close to the site of an 1870s-1880s fishing barricade or “zapor,” published in 1902 in Moser’s Fish Commission report. Since the spruce is thought to have been at this location for less than 800 years, the clearings around the sites may have been larger in the past. A short distance below the weir there are several large Alutiiq-Koniag style multi-chambered “octopus” houses. Together with appended rooms, these houses measure about 25 to 35 feet across. A test pit excavated in a side-room of one of the houses by the Dig Afognak program in 1997 recovered a small number of Russian period-style glass beads. This site was part of the historic Alutiiq fishing encampment, “Litnik” where there were forty barabaras late in the 19th century. A one-meter-square test pit placed in the brown soil between this house and the river bank did not encounter any refuse deposit but did recovered a slate ulu knife. A shovel probe made in front of one house in 1971 found shells from clams brought up the river at least two miles. On the opposite, northwestern side of the river there are additional deep house pits, not of typical format, i.e., lacking multiple appended rooms. Two test pits placed outside the houses did not encounter any artifacts or refuse deposits. One test found several feet of mottled brown soil, possibly a "melted" sod wall. It remains very likely that these depressions are from later Alutiiq houses, perhaps those of the people who operated the fish "zapor."
There may also be older occupation in this vicinity. On lower ground at the upstream end of the “Lagoon vicinity,” on the north side, there are a number of shallow single-room depressions. It was not clear that these were house depressions until a test pit placed in one of them in 1997 revealed at some depth an apparent floor streak. No artifacts were recovered.
The "Lagoon" Vicinity, AFG 009 & AFG 213
Two discontinuous sites are located on the south or southwest and north sides, respectively, of the tidal basin of the Afognak River. A few hundred feet downstream from the weir the river spreads out across a gravely bed into an elongate basin that fills and empties with the tides twice a day, the so-called lagoon. Since 1964, however, high tide also reaches slightly beyond the lagoon into the boulder-strewn Afognak River channel as far as the weir. House pits and sweat bath rubble mounds are found at several locations around the lagoon, on both sides. Subsidence in 1964 triggered erosion that nibbled and cut back the edges of the sites. In 1971 Workman and Clark collected many stone artifacts from the shore. Sometime before 1997, however, the erosion exposures became revegetation and the shore overgrown with beach rye. It is difficult now to see the extent of erosion. Artifacts found around the lagoon almost exclusively belong to the Koniag tradition, especially the precontact period, although historic Alutiiqs of Litnik also lived in the area. Only stone artifacts were found, as preservation of bone and other organic artifacts is poor in the local acidic soil.
Common artifacts include slate ulu blade fragments, large heavy splitting adzes, smaller planing adze bits, notched cobble sinkers, and ground slate points. Most locations around the lagoon appear to have seen a single episodes of occupation judging from the fact that shovel probes in the floors of two houses, one on each side of the river, failed to reveal any underlying refuse deposits. But along the shoreline in one area there is a five-foot thick accumulation consisting mainly of fire-cracked rock.
The Kachemak Tradition Vicinity, AFG 010, AFG 088, AFG 214, AFG 215
At the lower end of the lagoon the river narrows between walls of bedrock. Here there is a deep pool where salmon congregate. Formerly, a covered bridge spanned the river across the pool. From just above the bridge location the river runs straight, deep and relatively narrow for several hundred feet towards the bay; then it became shallower and formerly could be waded at low tide; it widens, and turns northeastward for a short distance; and turns again to the southeast, widening into an estuarine area of several small islets. There are sites and traces of occupation along almost the entire extent of this reach, on both sides. Inspection of the river banks in 1964 and 1971 and testing by Clark in 1951 and the Dig Afognak program in 1997 shows that there was varied and somewhat complex occupation here. Late Kachemak, probably middle time-range Kachemak, and Early Kachemak occupations have been found together with historic occupation. Early Kachemak is well represented at Site AFG-088, located on the southwestern shore, at a sharp bend in the estuary, while later Kachemak remains are strung out for several hundred feet along the opposite, north-northeastern, shore at AFG-010. Again, there are no midden refuse deposits here. Artifacts are scattered throughout the soil or occur in house pit fills, often with tightly pack layers of fire-cracked rock.
AFG-214 and 215 are upstream from AFG-088 (below) on the same side of the river, and consist respectively of a cluster of Kachemak house pits next to AFG-088 and then varied but sometimes sparse traces of occupation on up the river towards the bridge abutments. Artifacts from other, mainly Late Kachemak, areas, especially AFG-010, include numerous small notched pebble net sinkers, ground slate projectile points and double-edged knives or lance blades, small knives, points and scrapers flaked from red chert, cobble spall scrapers, large scrapers flaked from slate, ground slate ulu blades, stone lamps, cobble mauls, grooved cobbles, and a few greenstone planing adze bits.
Heavily forested AFG-088 was collected along the eroding shore in 1971. At that time it seemed that evidence of both Late Ocean Bay (OB II) and Kachemak occupation was present. With this possibility in mind Clark and Dig Afognak staff returned to the site during the 1990s, made further collections from the shore and excavated three test pits. Stone artifacts of Ocean Bay II and Kachemak tradition types were found together at the same depth in the stony site deposit. Hence, it is unlikely that the site contains mixed material from two cultures of differing divergent ages. Instead, it is transitional with the characteristics of both. Three radiocarbon dates, of between 3000 and 3800 years ago, were obtained through the financial support of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. These dates fit the interpretation of a transition from Ocean Bay II to the Kachemak tradition. A fourth test pit excavated at the erosion exposure in 1999 by G. Carver and Clark also revealed an additional lower layer that may be older and Ocean Bay in affiliation. Further excavation is required to determine if that is the case. The site is nearly 90 yards long, though possibly the full extent was not occupied at any one time.
Like the other Kachemak salmon fishing camps, activity such as rigging nets and cleaning salmon took place on the shore and banks within a few yards of the water. Hence, the erosion that has taken place through the ages and especially after 1964 has washed many stone artifacts in the shore gravels. Implements found here include very numerous notched stone net weights of a size conspicuously larger than Late Kachemak net sinkers, large ovoid cobble mauls, grooved cobbles, cobble spall tools, a few flaked red chert points and small knives, planing adze bits, numerous ground slate ulu blades and also ground slate projectile points and double-edged knife or lance blades, a stone lamp and an ochre grinder hand stone. Much of the slate work was done according to techniques and styles characteristic of the antecedent Ocean Bay tradition.
The Ocean Bay Culture Vicinity
Three Ocean Bay tradition sites are located on a small islet across from transitional site AFG 088, down-river from AFG 088, and farther out on the esturary in a tiny islet.
The Ocean Bay Slate Site, AFG 011
The Slate site, together with the Roadcut site at Ocean Bay on Sitkalidak formed the initial basis for defining the Late Ocean Bay or OBII phase. It is located on a small mound-shaped islet on the northeast side of the Afognak River estuary across from AFG 088 and separated from the Kachemak AFG-010 by a gravel spit that since 1964 emerges only at low tide. It was discovered in 1964 after slate artifacts were found washed out from its fringes. A portion of the so-called Slate Site was excavated in 1971. By then it had suffered from erosion along the entire river face between, but subsequently the site and excavation walls were revegetated and “healed.” Artifacts, refuse, hearths and portions of houses occur throughout a four-foot thick soily deposit that extends along the river for 130 feet. Originally, there appears to have been much bone in the site matrix that has decayed and turned into soil except for ghostly traces. Only stone artifacts were recovered.
People apparently stayed at his location to catch and process salmon, but the site also was a tool factory. With free time between salmon runs and a good local source of slate, the Ocean Bay people took the opportunity the make large numbers of sawn slate tool blanks as well as finished ground knives and lance or spear points. The number of tools and blanks produced was far in excess of immediate needs. The surplus undoubtedly was intended for use elsewhere during the year and for trade to other communities who did not have access to good slate. Many cobble spalls that had been used to saw and scrape the slate prior to finishing it with whetstones also were found on the site. It appears that chert flaking had almost died out as a manufacturing technique at this locality, but was revived to some extent in late Ocean Bay II times and it continued thus during Kachemak times.
Ocean Bay Chert Site, AFG 008
Across from the Slate Site and 150 yards farther out on the estuary is an earlier Ocean Bay settlement flaked chert tools occurred. Ocean Bay II type ground slate implements also were found there in the younger upper levels. Artifacts are thinly scattered through the brown soil along the river for about 400 feet, but at the lower end of the site an eroded remnant of a deposit with three feet of artifact rich stony refuse was found at the entrance to a small lagoon. It was excavated in 1971. Here a 7000-year old flaked chert industry was found in the lower levels. While the Slate site seems to have been a tool factory as well as a fishing camp, the case may have been similar for the Chert site. A large quantity of chert flakes, stone waste, and rough unfinished “biface” knives and other tools, often broken, were found here. The chert could be obtained a few miles away from the stream bed not far inland from the head of Marka Bay and from shoreline bluffs near Iron Creek on Raspberry Island.
In addition to often roughly prepared chert knives, the so-called Chert site also had numerous finer projectile points flaked from chert and also basalt, ground slate points similar to those found at the Slate site, ochre grinders, microblade cores and a few prismatic blades, a few adze bits, split cobbles used as choppers, and chert flake scrapers.
Estuary Islet Site AFG 216
In 1971 few chert flakes had been noted on the shore at a tiny islet between the Slate site, and Winter Island (the relatively large islet at the entrance to the Afognak River estuary). In 1997 Patrick Saltonstall examined the site and found a small area of thin intact Ocean Bay deposits. A flaked adze bit was recovered. This site could be as old as the Chert site or even older as sites here become progressively older towards the mouth of the river.
Cape Kazakof Site AFG-235
This outer site, discovered in 1968 by Steffian and Saltonstall, is located in a small cove between Marka Bay and Cape Kazakof at one of the few good boat landings within near the cape. It is 155 feet long, divided into 115 ft and 40 ft eroding segments by a small creek. One multi-room house depression, 26 feet across was seen here, and this type of house indicates that the site belongs to the Koniag tradition.
Marka Bay East Entrance AFG-236
Only a remnant of this site reported by Steffian has survived on the edge of an eroding bluff at the north side of Marka Bay. Remaining midden deposits are 12 to 16 inches deep, about 26 feet long and extend back into the bank for 13 feet. The presence of abundant fire-cracked rock suggests a Koniag tradition age, though Early Kachemak cannot be excluded.
Point Inside Marka Bay AFG-237
The very thin eroding site, discovered by Steffian and Saltonstall in 1998, occupies all of a small point located 0.6 mile inside Marka Bay on its north side. It is about 40 feet long and up to 26 feet wide, but may have been larger at one time. A modest amount of chipping debris was found at the erosion face, suggesting an Early Kachemak tradition placement.
Marka Bay Inner Site AFG-
The site was located at the base of a small peninsula that separates Marka Bay proper from a shallow inner tidal area. There were two well defined house pits here. One was about 13 yards wide. Erosion in progress in July 1964 had cut into a six-foot-thick deposit consisting primarily of sweat bath rubble but with some shell midden at the base. The site had been reduced to 12 yards width and was 90 yards long. Later, this remaining portion disappeared completely. Almost no artifacts were found on the beach, either in 1964 or when the location was revisited by Clark in the mid 1990s. The burned rock and sharply defined house pits indicate Koniag tradition placement.
Marka Bay West Outer Site AFG-020
The site is located on uneven ground in a slight bight inside Marka Bay on its SSW side on both sides of a small creek. Although the site is elevated above beach level it has not escaped erosion. On one side of the creek the site refuse deposits about 35 yards long and extend as far inland. Across the stream the site continues for about 100 yards, but including a gap of 30 yards. A trace of midden was seen atop a small rock now separated from the shore but probably once incorporated into a massive midden deposit. R. Knecht dug a test pit at the outer end in 1995 and recovered from shallow deposits two typical incised slate figurines, which place the site within the Koniag tradition. Deposits now tend to be shallow, reaching a maximum of two feet of midden.
Kugilak (Driftwood Beach), AFG 016
This site looks eastward across a long sand and cobble beach towards the open ocean The beach, located east of Settlement Point, collects a large supply of driftwood. The site was 240 yards in extent along the face when observed in 1964 and eroding deposits were at least 5 feet thick. There is no prominent mound at the site, thus the accumulation of refuse may never have been much thicker. In 1999 a measurement was taken in from the edge across house pits and it was found to be 270 meters or approximately 300 yards from the north end, where a barabara was recreated, to a grassy point where in 1951 erosion had cut into the midden from both sides of the point (site traces no longer extend this far). This is the longest site in the area reviewed here with the exception of the Afognak River composite. Many whale bones and layers of fire-cracked rock (largely sweat bath rubble) were exposed in 1964. Presently the inner edge of the site with several house pits and historic garden plots remains intact. A test pit dug at the south end by R. Knecht found relatively sterile (artifactless) midden layers interspersed with layers of sand blown in from the beach (Patrick Saltonstall personal communication to Clark). Soil probes by Dig Afognak in 1999 confirmed that garden plots had been placed in old house pits. Some had been cleared of Novarupta-Katmai ash, indicating post-1912 cultivation. In one plot raised beds and furrows are plainly visible. Although an immense volume of site deposits with shell midden and sweat bath rubble has been washed away, almost no artifacts have been found exposed on the beach, possibly because of strong wave action. The few items recovered place the site within the Koniag tradition. They include a roughly fashioned splitting adze, generalized stone lamps, and two elongate ground slate points with lozenge or diamond cross section. The points are a distinct Pacific Eskimo area horizon style that appeared early in the second millennium AD. Midden layers seen in the test pits showed that the inhabitants ate primarily shell fish and fish, especially butter clams, large sea snails, sea urchins, blue mussels and the occasional chiton and limpet. Possibly a seasonal aspect of residence here accounts for the near absence of sea mammal and bird remains.
Testing in 1999 examined the question of whether the depressed rectangular plots were gardens, house pits or both. We have already noted evidence confirming that they were gardens. Because of the enriched soil, old sites are favored locations for gardens. Clearing of stones, and especially removal of the volcanic ash that fell in 1912 has converted the garden plots into rectangular depressions. However, the depressions at Kugilak are much deeper than garden plots found elsewhere in the Kodiak region – up to six feet deep. The alternative interpretation examined then is that Koniag house depressions had been converted into garden plots. However, the lack of appended rooms, e.g., "octopus" houses, and the large size of some depressions created problems with that interpretation. An exploratory slit trench dug into the berm between two depressions, and a test pit at the rear edge of one of the same depressions, encountered a natural sequence of midden and sand layers. These are the layers one would expect to be formed next to a house when the occupants threw out trash and storms blew sand in from the beach. The berms are not secondary accumulations formed from clearing stones out of garden plots. We also verified that there is at least one appended room at the deepest depression, though it is not as deep as the main pit. Sand blown in from the beach may have filled in other sunken side-rooms. As well, once a house was built, continuing increments of sand from the shore and trash from the occupation could have left the house progressively deeper in the ground. When it eventually was abandoned and collapsed the pit left was deeper than the original depression
Settlement Point, AFG 015
This village with nine well defined compound or “octopus” type Koniag houses and a large area of midden accumulation was a focus of Dig Afognak Program excavations during the years 1995 through 1997. It has yielded significant information on precontact housing and subsistence. Information from preliminary reports by Patrick Saltonstall, excavator, has been utilized elsewhere in this chapter.
Posliedni Point, AFG 014
A small 33 meter-long (40 paces) site deposit is located atop a low bluff near Posliedni Point. There are one or two house pits here, probably Koniag, but the site has not been tested to verify its cultural placement. Judging from the lack of mounding, deposits are relatively thin.
"Adze" Site, AFG 012
The site is located on the east shore of Afognak Bay across from Rivermouth Point and several hundred yards out from the entrance of Back Bay. “Adze” refers to the fact that a large number of greenstone adze bits were found here when the site was tested by D. Clark in 1951. Collecting also was done from the beach at the eroded foot of the site in 1971 and additional small scale excavation was done here in 1996 by Megan Partlow and Patrick Saltonstall. Artifact types recovered and radiocarbon dating show that the site falls within the time range of the Koniag tradition at Settlement Point.
The collection is fairly substantial and includes ground slate ulu fragments, a leafshaped blade flaked from slate, two barbed ground slate spear points of the of an elongate diamond cross section – a type that is characteristic of the early Koniag tradition and of Settlement Point, boat- shaped ground slate end blades for projectiles, various notched cobble weights, many planing adzes, splitting adzes, incised slate figurines, a fine jet labret, bone harpoon head fragments and stone lamps.
The site is about 40 yards long and 6.5 feet to 8 feet deep and 20 yards wide (as of 1971). In 1951 additional thinner deposits also were exposed in the low bank at the forested up-bay end of the site but were washed away many years ago. Although the main site is perched atop a till deposit and bedrock, erosion had occurred sometime prior to 1951 and was renewed in 1964. In 1971, when the site was next visited, the entire front consisted of a fresh erosion exposure, but it was not cut back far before it stabilized and the exposure became revegetated.
The deeper deposits contained considerable rotten wood, grass and other packed vegetal matter. The grass apparently is an accumulation of compacted floor dressings that was preserved because of the anaerobic or air-free environment created by the wetness of the bottom layers. A house pit had been excavated through the accumulated deposit of soil and old volcanic ash down to impervious clayey glacial till. To drain the house a small ditch had been dug across the floor and was covered with flagstones.
AFG 012’s Neighbor, AFG 013
This site is situated atop the bank about 50 yards outside AFG 012 beyond a gully. It is small though it could have served as an extension of AFG 012. Bank sloughing triggered by erosion was observed in 1971. A clay-lined pit was seen in cross section at the exposure. The pit was a little less than two feet (60 cm) in diameter and contained only refuse from the site deposit. Among the few artifacts found on the shore here is an incised slate figurine, a splitting adze preform, and several adze bits which indicate that the site belongs to the same period of occupation as adjacent AFG 012 and Settlement Point.
Head of Back Bay AFG-225
Exposed site material was observed at a low elevation in a shallow-water area at the head of Back Bay in 1995 (Patrick Saltonstall personal communication to Clark 1998). Finding an incised slate figurine here, among five artifacts, establishes the period of this site as Koniag, approximately the same as Settlement Point. Further details pertaining to this possible waterlogged site have not been recorded.
Just a House, AFG 007
A single house pit was located atop the bank on the southwest side of Afognak Bay a few hundred yards outside Rivermouth Point at a slight bight in the shoreline. At the foot of the bank was a small patch of midden that was excavated by Clark in 1951. It yielded a fine, though broken, splitting adze, a harpoon socket piece, and a few very nondescript artifacts of the Koniag tradition (hammer stone, slate ulu fragments, slate point fragments, flaked ulu-shaped scraper, bone wedges). After subsidence in 1964 the bank was cut back and most of the house remains slumped into the bay.
In 1971 a small thin deposit of shell midden was exposed at the mouth of the Afognak River in from Rivermouth Point at approximately at the location where the disused and now overgrown hatchery road started. Subsequently, the small site has been buried under a new beach berm or eradicated by erosion.
Afognak Village No. 1, AFG 002
Two midden exposures were seen at the eroding edge of the beach immediately north of Graveyard Point in July 1964. They were separated from one another by a distance of about 25 yards. Deposits at the exposure were about 24 inches thick, and it is unlikely that they were very thicker elsewhere on the site judging from the lack of surface mounding. Possibly, though, the site had been levelled for gardening as there were garden plots there that had not been used for some years. No collection was made. Today one row of garden plots is still recognizable while driftwood covers the upper edge of the shore. The location was not tested to see if any midden remains there.
Afognak Village No. 2, AFG 003
Midden deposits are located on either side of the mouth of the small creek that comes out onto the beach in front of the school building. In 1964 midden deposits at the westerly (outer) site, AFG-003, were 1.5 foot to 2 feet thick in a 30 yard-long band. Additional thin traces of habitation refuse extend for another 20 yards at the top of the eroding bank just below the Katmai ash. No collection to note was made at that time. Shell and bone here is not as well preserved as it is at the next site (AFG 004) and bone is poorly preserved.
Traces of midden were still to be seen at the eroding bank, for about the same distance, in 1999. The thickness and integrity of midden layers could not be assessed without making a test exposure because the upper edge of the bank was vegetated and the surface appears to been disturbed by machinery in recent years. A large active garden plot begins about 10 yards in from the edge of the bank. Only scattered patches of shell midden and fire-cracked rock are exposed in the field. Artifacts brought up by the plough include some large iron objects and ceramic sherds from the late American period. Nothing was seen exposed on the rain-washed soil suggestive of the Russian period or of the remains of an odinochka. Nevertheless, this terrain and ground extending southward from it for 100 yards remains a plausible site of the odinochka.
Afognak Village No. 3, AFG 004
Historic settlement along the shore NNE of Graveyard Point is identified on maps under the designation “Aleut Village” which is the "Aleut Town" of local usage. Aleut Town included the midden mound AFG-004, which is located on the north and seaward side of the creek noted above. There were a few small occupied frame houses on the site 1951, one in 1960, none appear in a 1962 air photograph. Then the surface was swept clean in 1964. Refuse deposits are responsible for distinctly mounded topography here. In 1951 the seaward edge of the site was being eroded and after subsidence of the area in 1964 the entire face of the site was being cut back by storms. In 1951, 60 yards of midden was exposed at the face. In 1964 the exposure had increased to 82 yards and deposits were 4.25 feet thick with one pit feature extending to 5.25 feet. Clay lined pits were seen in the exposure, one of them at the base of the site. In 1999 the seaward exposure of midden was approximately the same depth and 48 yards long while the surface topography tentatively indicates that the site still reached an extent of about 80 yards. However, judging from a comparison of 1962 and 1972 air photographs, the site had lost about half its width after 1964.
In 1999 a four by five meter block was excavated to the base of the site by the Afognak Native Corporation for the Native Village of Afognak and an additional one by two meter pit was excavated. Late American period artifacts were recovered from above and below the 1912 volcanic ash. Very few early American period and no Russian period artifacts were recovered. The bulk of the deposit consisted of Kachemak midden and features. Hardly any Koniag tradition artifacts were recovered. In 1951 and 1964 Clark collected a small number of artifacts indicating Kachemak tradition occupation followed by Koniag deposits of fire-cracked rock. It is possible that Koniag tradition deposits were localized at the seaward side of the site that subsequently was lost to erosion. Items recovered in 1999 include numerous bone wedges, labrets, fish hook parts, numerous barbed harpoon heads, miscellaneous ornaments including probable nose pins, slate ulu blades, heavy bar-shaped abraders, natural pumice and scoria lump abraders, birdbone awls, fragments of bone arrow heads and spear prongs, ground slate spear tips, curiosities such as a "rock oyster" shell and a flake of yellow chert, and a single adze bit from upper levels that may be from the Koniag occupation. Part of a Kachemak house also was uncovered. There was a small grooved cobble maul but no grooved fish line weights.
A thin shell midden is eroding out of the top of the eroding bank on the south side of Graveyard Point, as of 1999. In 1984 historic coffins had been found eroding out of the same area. The shell streak is only a few yards long. It was not investigated because of the sensitivity of the location.
Lipsett Point, AFG-005
The site is on the northeast side of Lipsett Point. A trail from Afognak village formerly intersected the site at its inner or up-bay end. The site appeared to be small when it was first seen by Clark at an erosion face in 1951. Then, in 1964 intensified erosion exposed up to 2 meters of deposits over a short portion of the 70-yard-long refuse deposit. In most areas the site deposit was only half that thick or less. By 1998 nothing remained of it except for the occasional chunk of fire-cracked rock seen in the exposed bank. Garden plots observed here in 1964 also have disappeared into the sea. The Lipsett Point petroglyph locality is situated in front of this site. A sandstone lamp obtained by D. Clark from Mike Toshwak, Sr., in 1951, and now in the collections of the Kodiak Historical Society, reportedly came from this site. The lamp is plain but has simple sawn line decorations suggestive of Kachemak tradition lamps. Nevertheless, abundant sweat bath rubble seen at the site likely indicates Koniag occupation.
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