Alutiiq Museum digs into Kashevaroff site

KODIAK — The Kashevaroff site, in Womens Bay, is the newest archaeological site to be explored by the museum’s community archaeology program. Each summer the program recruits local volunteers and students to help excavate a site on the Kodiak road system. The three sites previously excavated include Bruhn Point, Salonie Mound and Amak, all in the Womens Bay area.

Last October, excavation leaders Patrick Saltonstall and Jill Lipka looked for new locations by digging sample pits in areas they thought Alutiiq people would want to live.

Lipka said the Kashevaroff site seemed like it would be a good area because it has water nearby, a great view, and is in close proximity to the ocean.

“It’s a place you’d want to live now,” she said.

On Monday, the team spent most of the day digging down to the level of Katmai ash with shovels, and they located the outlines of the home structure. On Tuesday, the first real excavation day, they started clearing away the ash to get to the dirt. That’s when they started finding objects.

Before they started digging, Saltonstall had volunteers take notes and observations of the site layout, including a sketch of the grid squares the house was located in. The site is divided into a grid, and each volunteer works in a designated grid square. The system makes it easy to document where objects are found.

“He (Saltonstall) likes us to form a hypothesis or what thinking we’re going on,” said Andrea Gover, a repeat Alutiiq Museum dig volunteer. “We provide evidence on why we think that based on artifacts and features.”

To excavate, the team uses trowels to dig up the dirt. They fill the buckets with the dirt, while looking for artifacts. Saltonstall then sifts through the dirt for undetected artifacts.

Volunteers were happily surprised when they started finding red chert flakes, charcoal, ulus and cow bones within minutes of digging away the Katmai ash.

“We were a little nervous opening a new site,” Gover said. “The flakes were found right under the Katmai ash. Statistically, that’s a really good sign because it’s right under the soil.”

After the first day of findings, Saltonstall’s initial hypothesis is that the area was a fishing camp where people lived.

“Everything they found so far supports this is 1,500-2,000 years old, but that could change,” Saltonstall said.

The museum has a core group of around eight people who are working at the dig site, but it is still looking for more volunteers. Participants can earn high school or college credit.

Michelle Weekly signed up for the dig so she could earn credit for teaching.

“I needed teacher credits and I love to be outside, so this was perfect,” Weekly said.

Ian MacIntosh said he decided to help out because he had the time and “it sounded interesting.”

The dig continues through Aug. 9. Anyone interested in participating can meet the group at 8:20 a.m. at the back of the Alutiiq Museum by the double doors Monday through Friday. Participants must be 14 years or older. Bring your own gloves and a lunch. For questions, call the Alutiiq Museum at 486-7004.

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