Archaeology is an imprecise science. Setting out to find something doesn’t mean that it is actually there to find! Museum Curator Patrick Saltonstall was reminded of this fact last October, during a survey of the Buskin River valley.
With funding from the Sun’aq tribe, Saltonstall and museum staffer Jill Lipka completed five days of investigation along the shores of Buskin lake and river. Alutiiq people settled the banks of Kodiak’s resource rich salmon streams, including those of the Buskin. A few sites were known in the drainage, but archaeologists had never reviewed the area thoroughly. The Sun’aq Tribe wanted to correct this situation to insure the protection of ancestral settlements.
“We walked areas that had never been reviewed,” said Saltonstall. “We examined eroding banks and areas disturbed by construction to look for buried materials. We dug test pits in likely site locations. We thought there would be additional sites, but we didn’t find any.”
Why? Saltonstall believes that the answers lie in how Alutiiq people used the valley and not the disturbances of the past century.