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Shifting ground: archaeological surveys of upland Adak Island, the Aleutian Islands, Alaska and changing assumptions of Unangan land use patterns

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Archaeological site surveys in the Aleutian archipelago of western Alaska understandably focused along the shoreline, based on an assumption that land resources were a minor contribution to Unangan life. This view was the dominant but not unanimous view from the 1960s through the 1990s. There were occasional reports of upland sites. In 2007 through 2009, a concerted effort was made to survey a portion of the upland areas on Adak Island. In 2007, eight new sites with two to 22 cultural depressions were found between 33 and 115 m above sea level. Radiocarbon dates of 190±50 rcybp and 590±40 rcybp from two sites demonstrate that these are not modern features. The results of the 2007 season nearly doubled, from 12 to 20, the number of upland sites with cultural depressions reported in the Aleutian Islands. Three additional upland sites found in 2008 included an isolated flake, a lithic scatter, and a heavily vegetated site with a cultural stratum. The 2009 survey on the Pacific coast resulted in no new upland sites. These results are used to suggest that the understanding of Unangan land use needs revision.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK, USA 2: Regional Archaeologist, Alaska Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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