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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Afognak Survey

Afognak Spruce Forest

Last week two days after my archaeological survey to the treeless southeastern corner of the archipelago, I headed up to the densely forested northern portion.   Another archaeological survey but the landscape could hardly have been more different.  No more snow capped mountains looming overhead, and seemingly endless vistas.  Just the green, green forest and a rocky coastline.  About the only thing in common to both areas are the thick salmonberry, alder and devil's club thickets.  Its hard to escape the brush anywhere on Kodiak.

Over the next couple of years I will be doing a lot of surveying on Afognak Island for one of the major landowners.  Much of the coastline has not been surveyed and I hope to find lots of previously undiscovered archaeological sites.  Another goal is to check on site conditions - how are they doing?  Are any sites in particular threatened?  What are the threats? The whole point of the survey is to help the landowner better manage and protect the sites on their land.

It was almost 20 years ago since I had last visited some of the sites, and I was able to assess how they've changed through time.  The area has been rebounding ever since the 1964 earthquake when it sank precipitously.  And the rebound seems to be outpacing sea level rise.  Many of the sites now have grass and brush growing on what had been active beach berms.  However, this past winter was particularly stormy and appears to have opened up a few of the sites to new erosion.

By far the coolest thing I found on the recent survey was a cluster of petroglyphs.  Circles and dots pecked into a slate outcrop in front of a site.  We'd heard that there were some petroglyphs at this particular site, and I looked hard and found some.  But they did not match up with what the informant had said we'd find.  And then on our return when we showed him where we found the petroglyphs he informed us that we were at the wrong site! So now I guess we'll have to go back and look again.  Patrick

Interesting marine debris

Circle and dot petroglyphs pecked into slate

Prehistoric hearth eroding out onto a beach

Severely eroding site in 2016

Same site in 1998 - 20 years ago (when it had just recently been severely vandalized)

Sea lion by the boat in St Paul Harbor

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