Search This Blog

Thursday, June 05, 2014

My Uyak Bay Survey

Harry and Brigid showed me around the bay

Yesterday I got back from an archaeological survey of Uyak Bay. The bay was already surveyed in the summer of 1985 during the Bryn Mawr Archaeology Project which surveyed the Karluk, Sturgeon and Uyak areas, and so going out I was not expecting to find many new sites.  I even had visions of re-surveying the entire bay.  Boy was I wrong.

For the first part of the survey I stayed with Harry and Brigid of Kodiak Treks near the head of the bay, and they took me around in their skiff to look for sites.  It seems every time I touched shore I discovered a previously unknown archaeological site. And every time I found a site I had to document it in my notebook with a sketch map and description along with photographs and video.  I was finding so many sites I started to dread going to shore.

Prehistorically it seems Uyak Bay was a VERY popular place.  No where else on the archipelago have I seen such a dense concentration of archaeological sites.  And most of them are pretty substantial sites with housepits and thick shell middens. Needless to say, but I did not have the time to re survey the entire bay.

In 6 days I found 31 new archaeological sites and re-visited another 20 already recorded sites which I also sketch mapped and documented. That's a lot of sites!  I figured out that while on actual survey I was finding a new site every hour and that's including travel time between sites and the time to document both old and new sites.  My fingers hurt from writing so much in the notebook.  To put the number of new sites in perspective, together with the Sturgeon Survey I found 50 new sites in under 2 weeks.  That's around 5% of the total known sites from the archipelago! 5 of the already known sites I examined were found subsequent to the 1985 survey so I was finding better than 2 sites for every one found on the 1985 survey. Also I did not do any subsurface testing and only found sites by examining eroding exposures or finding old house depressions.  So I did not find the less obvious and deeply buried sites with no surface features.

Ironically, back in 1985 I was a part of the Bryn Mawr Archaeological Project and remember wanting very badly to join the survey team in Uyak Bay.  But I was needed to excavate at the Karluk One site, and never got to go on survey.  Well, it seems after 29 years I finally got to eat my cake - it tastes good!  Patrick

Harvester and Bear Island and the Alaska Peninsula in the distance - I stayed with the Fields for the second part of the survey

Shooting Star

Anemone and Purple Orchis


The coolest site I found was on top of a 30 foot cliff on the outer coast - a place to wait and watch for favorable weather to cross the Shelikof Strait?

Chipped stone point and intended destination in the background

The house in the foreground is where I stayed the last time I did any archaeology in Uyak Bay - an excavation at the Uyak Site in 1988


Leslie Leyland Fields said...

Patrick!! I am SOOOOO bummed I was gone when you were here! (I was in Nome for the week--and got back the day after you left.) The boys passed on to me a bit of what you had found . .. .. When I'm back in town I would like to hear more details. This kind of stuff just makes me drool and salivate--I LOVE ancient history and archeology! I really want to know more about the piece of island I am living on. Please accept my huge apologies for not being there---I rarely leave the island in summer. I hope my people took care of you properly with some good old Harvester Island hospitality!

Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

Leslie, I found a really cool site right in front of your office. It was full of cobble scrapers and looks a lot like a cod processing site similar to one the Alutiiq Museum excavated on outer Uganik Island that dated to 3500 years ago.

Also it is clear that Uyak Bay needs some more survey work - so I'll be back!

Also Harvester Island hospitality was the best, and I particularly loved the view from my bed when I woke up in the morning. Patrick