Community Archaeology Program Digs Up the Whole Picture

Excavations at the Kashevaroff Site, Community Archaeology 2015. Courtesy of the Alutiiq Museum
Excavations at the Kashevaroff site during Community Archaeology 2015. Courtesy of the Alutiiq Museum

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kodiak’s amateur and professional archaeologists are in their final year of digging the Kashevaroff site at Salonie Creek as part of the Alutiiq Museum’s Community Archeology program.

Curator of Archaeology Patrick Saltonstall says they’ve been unearthing different parts of the same site for the last four years and tend to make new discoveries in each section.

“I usually like to dig the site until I’m not getting surprises like that. So, you can characterize the site. And if you dig one year, you almost never find everything. You don’t really know what was going on there. It usually takes a few years to say, okay, I’m getting the story. You know, you’re not getting surprised when you dig anymore.”

He says last year they found a lot of smoke-processing evidence.

“And it looks they were smoke-processing meat, not fish. We didn’t find any fishing gear, but we did find burned sea mammal bones, and then we also found something very interesting. We found all these net weights. People started using normal fishing nets on Kodiak about 4,000 years, but where we were was about 5,000 years ago, and we think they were actually maybe for seals. They were making some sort of net for hunting seals.”

That diet would have reflected the resources in the Salonie Valley, which Saltonstall says looked very different 4,000 to 7,000 years ago when Alutiiq people lived at the site.

“We worked up at the valley about ten years ago, we used to think oh, it was higher sea level, and it was all an inlet of the bay and we’ve since realized that was wrong through our studies and we’ve done a little bit of geology, and now we think it’s a lake. There was sort of a sand – you know, a big bar, and the salmon and the fish would have gone up there and the seals would have chased them.”

Saltonstall says the Community Archeology program stands apart from other digs in that it opens up more dirt, covers more land, and tries to see a larger picture.

“The overriding question that we want to answer is how did the Alutiiq people use Womens Bay through time. And how did that change? What was their seasonal round in this one place? And how did they live their year? And then, what was that like 7,000 years ago, 4,000 years ago, what was that like 2,000 years ago, you know right up to present?”

The Community Archeology orientation will be Thursday, July 14 starting at 7 p.m. at the Alutiiq Museum.


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