Search This Blog

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chirikof Archaeology

A tiny point from a 2000 year old site that looks exactly like the ones we found at a site on the Alaska Peninsula (and you don't find these on Kodiak)

The purpose of our visit out to Chirikof was to collect samples of animal bones from various sites of different ages, and to conduct a bird survey to see what birds are available out there today. Catherine will be identifying all the animals in the samples we collected and it will be interesting to see if different birds and animals lived on or near the island in the past.  I strongly suspect that the cows and foxes have  dramatically changed Chirikof's landscape.  The foxes have decimated the birds that nest on the ground while the cows have trampled everything and grazed the grass short.

Catherine was in charge of the expedition - I was only along as an archaeological resource (I know the sites) and for taking care of field logistics.  Basically I ended up carrying gear from one end of the island to the other and re found all the sites I first found in 2005.  It was really nice not to have the pressure of being in charge.  I got to relax and examine the archaeological sites.

For the most part, the sites are in better condition than they were in 2005.  Fewer cows around and the sites are eroding less.  Also since I last visited Chirikof in 2005 I have excavated a Norton site from the Alaska Peninsula (click here).  I now realize that there is a lot of similar looking material on Chirikof.

Unlike Kodiak, Chirikof has not been continuously occupied.  Periodically it has been abandoned and then new peoples have colonized it.  Early on - maybe until 4000 years or so ago - I think people from Kodiak lived there.  Then around 2000 years ago it looks like the people were more oriented towards the Alaska Peninsula.  Then for the last 700 years or so it was again people from Kodiak out there.

On this trip I have to secretively admit that I wanted to find a REALLY old site.  It appears that the south half of Chirikof was not glaciated and I talked with some geologists who found 12,000 year old tsunami deposits out there. So relative sea level had to have been relatively close to what it is today.  But no luck this time - and finding a really old site was sort of like looking for a needle in a hay stack.  Sites on Chirikof tend to be completely deflated with no charcoal to collect for radiocarbon dating or to be deeply buried by sand and weathered volcanic ash.  To find the really old sites one would need to visit with a team of geologists to pin point the old beaches etc and be prepared to dig a lot of deep test pits.


This could be old - a blade from a totally deflated site

Kodiak style pottery from a late prehistoric site

An ochre grinder - a common find in early Kodiak sites

Catherine screens out the dirt and collects all the bones 

A deflated site on the west side - we still found undisturbed deposits

No comments: