Archaeological dig uncovers prehistoric fishing community on remote Alaska island

AnchorageAugust 9, 2013 

From Kodiak Daily Mirror: Four archaeologists traveled to uninhabited Chirikof Island last month in hopes to shed light on life here before the Russians arrived. The 10-day expedition, which was partially funded by National Geographic, found hundreds of bird bones indicating a once-vibrant bird population. The explorers also determined, based on archaeological digs, that the island once had an active prehistoric fishing community.

Led by Boston University professor Catherine West, the expedition excavated a handful of ancient garbage dumps, searching for animal bones. By comparing the bones in the 3,000-year-old middens to wildlife today, West will be able to establish how American and Russian visitors changed the island’s ecosystem.

“I've been really interested to know how it's affected the ecosystem of the island,” she said.

Chirikof, about 80 miles southwest of Kodiak Island proper, receives fewer than two dozen human visitors per year. A two-hour floatplane ride from Kodiak, the hilly speck is difficult to reach by ocean because it lacks good harbors. Treeless, it is covered by lupin, a purple flower. “It looks really idyllic, and it's beautiful,” West said.

Read more: Expedition visits most remote island in Kodiak

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