Thursday, May 20, 2010
Cape Alitak Petroglyph Survey
I spent the last 2 weeks down at Cape Alitak with Sven H helping him with his petroglyph survey. Mark R and I mapped and tested all of the archaeological sites. It was our job to tie the prehistoric villages to the various petroglyph groupings and to date the sites. It turned out that there are a lot of sites down on Cape Alitak and we had our work cut out for us. One of the villages had almost 100 housepits!
Sven has been studying the petroglyphs for 10 years and it was very cool to tap into his accumulated body of knowledge. I couldn't believe how well he knew the individual glyphs. For instance, I'd be looking at what I thought was a new glyph and without even turning his head to see what I was looking at, Sven would say, 'nice whale huh?'. And it would be a whale. It was also amazing how the light and weather effected what you could see. In the third photo Sven is posing next to a drummer - note the huge circle - he first showed this to me on a sunny day and I thought he was making it up. Then on a cloudy, rainy day it just popped out. Meanwhile the smiling faces I saw on the sunny day had disappeared.
Most of the villages that we found, and the ones closest to the petroglyphs in particular, dated to about 700 to 1100 years ago. We'll know for sure when we get our radiocarbon dating results back. But based on house forms and tool types they all look like they date to the Transitional period between the Kachemak and Koniag cultural traditions. We also found quite a few whaling lances which are usually rare to non-existant in late prehistoric sites. It looks like they were doing quite a bit of whaling at Cape Alitak, and, based on what we found, they are making the whaling lances in the same way that they did 5000 years ago.
A really beautiful place - much thanks to Akhiok Kaguyak Inc who kindly allowed us on their land and supported us in the endeavor and to the National Park Service who provided the grant money to do the work.
PS that is not a live King Crab that I am holding, but the molted shell. The beaches were covered with the molted shells of crabs - mostly tanners. But I did find this complete molted specimen. I wish I had kept it. Patrick