Monday, December 20, 2010

I have Early Kachemak Midden!

Emily digging in midden from 1000 years ago

Patrick recording the stratigraphy from midden deposits dated to about 3400 years ago

If you read our blog in August, you know that I was working with the Alutiiq Museum on their Community Archaeology Dig at Mitksqaaq Angayuk. The excavation was part of my dissertation research. Among other things, we were hoping to find preserved shell and bones from the Early Kachemak time period (4000-2000 years ago). Several people have asked me recently whether we have gotten our radiocarbon dates back. The answer is, yes, the Alutiiq Museum has gotten the dates back and they make me quite happy!

The midden from the "Trench" is definitely Early Kachemak. The radiocarbon date from a charcoal sample indicates that the top shell layer was deposited about 3400 years ago (in the second photo, that's the white layer just above Patrick's head). At the bottom of the archaeological deposits is a brown volcanic ash and below that is the old beach gravel. We know that the brown volcanic ash is 3800 years old (based on dates from other sites in Kodiak), so we now know that all those layers of shell and bone were deposited in less than 400 years, from 3400 to 3800 years ago. This is great news for me because Early Kachemak sites are rare in Kodiak. Even more rare are Early Kachemak sites with preserved shell and bone.

I am particularly interested in this time period because it represents a significant change in the economy and settlement patterns of the Alutiiq people. Before 4000 years ago, people on Kodiak lived in small groups and moved often, following seasonally-available food resources. Around 4000 years ago, at the beginning of the Early Kachemak time period, people began to build more permanent houses, mass harvest salmon in nets, and smoke/dry and store salmon and probably other food products for the winter. Many archaeologists have studied this transition, but due to the lack of sites with fauna, we don't have a very good idea of what people were eating. I am hoping that my dissertation research can help answer some questions about the economic changes that happened after 4000 years ago in Kodiak.

I was also hoping to find midden from between 800 and 200 years ago. In the top photo, you can see Emily digging in a test pit that we hoped would be from that time period. The date turned out to be about 1000 years old. While that's a little older than I had hoped, it will have to work! Now I have samples of fauna from 3400 years ago, 1000 years ago, and 150 years ago. Hopefully I will be able to say something interesting about how diets changed through time in Chiniak Bay.

1 comment:

  1. Molly, I am waiting until after the Christmas mail rush to send your faunal samples for analysis. Also - I bet you still might have fauna from 300 or so years ago. We never dated the poorly preserved fauna layer at the top of Emily's unit. We know that there is a late prehistoric component at the site because of the multi HPS. Patrick