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LOOKING BOTH WAYS: Heritage and Identity of the Alutiiq People of Southern Alaska

Introduction
About the People
Alutiiq Villages
About this Project
Supplemental Reading

Object Categories
Ancestors
Our History
Our Way of Living
Our Beliefs
Our Family


Ancestors

Much Alutiiq heritage is preserved by people - in traditional stories about hunting, journeys, and meetings with spirits.

Archaeology provides another way of knowing the past. By working with archaeologists and supporting scientific excavations, Alutiiq communities seek knowledge as well as control over how this heritage is treated.

More than 3,000 archaeological sites dot the Alutiiq homeland. The remains of ancient coastal villages and camps hold stone tools and artifacts of shell, bone, antler, wood, and walrus ivory. Traces of houses, tents, hearths, and storage pits are preserved in the ground.

The oldest sites are almost 10,000 years old, left by Native Americans whose ancestors came from Siberia. The southern Alaskan coast offered these first settlers a rich supply of fish, plants, and animals for food. Over time, they invented new types of tools, boats, and clothing and became expert at harvesting the resources of the sea. Buried layers of animal bones and seashells at ancient villages provide evidence of the foods they ate.

By 4,500 years ago, people began building houses with thick walls of earth. They wore new styles of jewelry, such as labrets and nose rings. Artists of the late Kachemak period (900 - 3,500 years ago) carved animals, spirits, and human faces in bone and ivory.

Many changes took place in the last centuries before Russian conquest in 1784. People began to work and live in larger family groups, as shown by the remains of houses with room for 15 or more residents. War with other villages became an important fact of life. Fighters used bows and arrows and wore armor made of wooden slats. Villages were built on high rocks to serve as places of retreat during raids.



Telling traditional stories at the 1997 Alutiiq Elders' Planning Conference for the Looking Both Ways exhibition. Left to right: Ignatius Kosbruk, Ed Gregorieff, George Inga, Sr., and Sven Haakanson, Sr. Photograph by Maria Williams, Arctic Studies Center.

Shauna Lukin helps to excavate a 500 year-old house floor and stone-lined storage box at the Settlement Point site on Afognak Island. The excavation was sponsored and managed by the Afognak Native Corporation as part of Light the Past, Spark the Future, Dig Afognak! Photograph by Patrick Saltonstall.

Archaeological excavations at the Malina Creek village site on Afognak Island in the Kodiak archipelago. Layers of seashells and animal bones - the remains of meals consumed by the inhabitants - are visible. The lowest levels at Malina Creek are 5,000 years old. Photograph by Richard Knecht, 1993.

The Karluk 1 archaeological site was once located at the mouth of the Karluk River. This remarkable site was a village where people lived from about A.D. 1200 - 1750. For hundreds of years they built new houses on top of old ones, creating layers in the ground that told the story of the past like pages in a book. Woven baskets and wooden carvings were preserved in the constantly wet soil. The site was recently eroded away by waves from the sea. Photograph by Richard Knecht.

Ciqluaq - traditional Alutiiq house (left). An outside wall is taken away in this drawing so you can look inside. Large posts held up a timber roof that was covered with grass and earth. Smaller side rooms were for sleeping, storing food, and taking steam baths. Smoke from the fireplace escaped through an opening in the roof. The drawing on the right shows the outline of rooms in an old house, as mapped by archaeologists. Drawings by Mark Matson and Richard Knecht.

Rock painting at Bear Island, Kachemak Bay, Cook Inlet From The Archaeology of Cook Inlet, Alaska, by Frederica de Laguna (1975: Plate 65b)




OBJECT LINKS
WOODEN LABRETS | TOYS | SPOON | SPIRIT CARVING | OIL LAMP | MINIATURE MASK | MICROBLADES | LIP ORNAMENTS | LAMP | JEWELRY | IVORY PIN | IVORY CARVING | HUNTING TOOLS | HARPOONS | FISH HOOKS | BONE CARVING | BENTWOOD BOX | BEADS | ARROW AND ARMOR |


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About this Project | Supplemental Reading


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