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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Time with other archaeologists

For the last few days I have been in Anchorage attending an archaeology conference.  Four days of nothing but archaeology-speak.  Almost everyone at the conference is an Alaskan archaeologist and this is the yearly get together where we all compare notes.

My paper was all about the Alutiiq Museum's archaeological surveys of the rivers on the southwest corner of Kodiak.  We've been surveying them for the last 10 years and have pretty much finished - so I was able to synthesize a bit of what we've learned.

I put all the sites we've found on a map and then mapped all the resources and various river characteristics on the same map.  I determined where silver salmon spawn, bears concentrate to feed on fish, where the rivers are shallow and deep, and much, much more.  Then I looked for patterns.  Where did the Alutiiq choose to build their villages in relation to resources?

I discovered that Alutiiq people have always mostly focused on catching spawning silver and red salmon at their inland settlements.  What's interesting is that where they have chosen to catch the salmon has changed through time as Alutiiq society changed and evolved.

In the beginning, more than 4000 years ago, Alutiiq hunter gatherers speared spawning fish in shallow water - the same places where bears concentrate to feed on fish.  These are the easiest places to catch fish.

Later in time, when the Alutiiq began to live in larger villages and needed more fish for their growing population they started to use nets to catch fish.  They would set their nets in shallow, slow-moving water where the salmon pool up - mostly on the lakeshore.  This is the most efficient way to catch lots of salmon.

Finally, around 800 years ago, when the Alutiiq people had become a ranked society with chiefs and large villages, they started to use weirs and spears to catch fish.  Their villages moved down river from the lakes to shallow strategic places where they could control the river and catch fish earlier in the run - not necessarily the best places to catch fish.

Anyway, that was my story and the other archaeologists seemed to like it.  That's always a HUGE relief.  Patrick

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