This diverse and complex (culturally speaking) region has been conceived, archeologically, as an area of Pacific Eskimo co-traditions (Clark 1984b) stretching from the Chirikof Island and Chignik area of the Alaska Peninsula west of Kodiak Island to the Copper River delta on the Gulf of Alaska. Even though there has been a great deal of cultural diversity among Prince William Sound, Kachemak Bay, Kodiak Island, the Pacific side of the upper Alaska Peninsula, Chirikof Island, and the middle of the Alaska Peninsula, they can be considered within a single framework or set of co-traditions. The NPS units within this region are ANIA, KATM and ALAG, LACL on the Alaska Peninsula, and KEJF on the Gulf of Alaska coast of the Kenai Peninsula.
In late prehistoric times, the population of this extensive region fell into two major linguistic divisions, Aleutian and Eskimoan, with the dividing line between them falling on the Alaska Peninsula just west of ANIA , near 159 degrees west longitude. Both groups shared many traits, derived probably from their common existence as marine hunters and their common roots as Eskaleut peoples. Both the Eskimoan and Aleut languages were derived from a common Eskaleutian language. The place and time of the separation of these and other languages from the common stock into separate languages is a major research question for this area (see Dumond 1987). However, other influences were regularly felt on the Alaska Peninsula. Over the millennia, both migration and diffusion came from the Bering Sea coast to the north, from the interior areas to the east, and the Pacific areas of Kodiak Island.
Cultural influences from the Bering Sea coast can be seen on the Peninsula in the presence on Paleoarctic sites at Ugashik Lake and at the mouth of the Kvichak River on Bristol Bay. The Anangula site in the Aleutians also represents an early presence of Paleoarctic type culture but it doesn't seem to have influenced later developments in the area. The Northern Archaic tradition appeared in the area about 5000 BP, with sites at Kvichak River and in KATM (possibly present in LACL and ANIA but these areas are unsurveyed).
In contrast, by 7000 years ago, maritime hunters were living on Kodiak Island, the adjacent Alaska Peninsula, and probably throughout the Pacific area. This culture has been called the Ocean Bay I tradition on Kodiak, and the closely related Takli Alder phase on the Pacific Coast of the Peninsula. Ground slate appears in the tool inventory at this time, although chipped stone technology remained predominant. On Kodiak Island the transition to Ocean Bay II around 4500 BP, is marked by the shift to the predominance of ground state tool technology. However, it seems that Ocean Bay I type culture persisted on Takli Island and the Alaska Peninsula (as shown at the Kukak Bay site in KATM), and extending as far northwest as Pedro Bay on Lake Illiamna. This persistent culture has been named the Takli culture by Clark (1984b) (late Ocean Bay I on Kodiak and Takli Birch on Takli Island). Takli and Ocean Bay II seemingly coexisted and interacted until, at least, 3800 BP. After this Kodiak saw the development of the Kachemak tradition. Takli Birch continued on the Peninsula into a much later time with very little cultural elaboration. By late Takli Birch times influence from Kachemak can be seen, indicative of interaction throughout the region.
In the broad view, the second millennium B.C. showed some cultural diversity in the region with several related, but locally divergent cultures. The Old Islanders of Chirikof Island (near ANIA) employed chipped and ground tool technology but in different styles from Takli and Ocean Bay II. It probably represents a regional phase of the central and western Alaska Peninsula and offshore islands of the 4200 BP period. At the base of the Alaska Peninsula the 4500 year old Pedro Bay site shows variations from Ocean Bay II as does the Brooks River Strand phase on the Bering Sea slope of the Peninsula.
At the Brooks River site, the arrival of Arctic Small Tool people from the Bristol Bay region is evident by 3800 BP and lasted until 3100 BP. The intrusive ASTt occupation of the Brooks River represents a unique phase in the prehistory of interior Peninsula because it is a 700 year period when the influence of Pacific Coast cultures is not evident. This suggests that there was an actual migration of ASTt people from the north and not a diffusion of their technology and culture. The next wave of influence from the north shows up around 2300 BP in the Norton culture, which was resident until 1000 BP. Norton, characterized by pottery and the use of ground slate, marked a shift to an economy based on coastal resources. Norton appears to have shared this marine orientation with the developing Kachemak or Kodiak tradition on the Pacific Coast. They shared many characteristics but Norton doesn't seem to have ever firmly established itself on Kodiak or the Pacific Coast.
As the Kachemak tradition evolved from North Pacific maritime hunters not very different from Ocean Bay, it was represented on the coast of the Alaska Peninsula in the Takli Cottonwood and the Kukak Beach phases, which do show some Norton influences. Sites also have been found in Prince William Sound (Palugvik), as well as in the middle and upper Cook Inlet that are very similar to late Kachemak. Clark labels this development of Pacific Coast groups a co-tradition and Dumond (1987) sees it as a wide-spread Kodiak tradition.
The last centuries of the first millennium A.D. were ones of fusion of Bering Sea and Pacific ideas
and cultures. In most areas, cultural continuity is evident though some immigration is probable (Clark
1984b). This period is seen as the time of the development of the historically known Pacific Eskimo. The
triggering event for this growth was the fluorescence of the Thule Eskimo culture to the north and its rapid
spread to the east and the south from its origins around the northern Bering Strait. By around 1100 AD, the
ancestors of the historically known Pacific Eskimo may have been present on the Alaska Peninsula coast in
the Kukak Mound Phase and on Kodiak Island in the Koniag phase. According to Clark (1984b:146):
By 1500 AD, the Koniag culture was well established on Kodiak, representing a well developed Pacific Eskimo culture, probably speaking Pacific dialects of Yupik Eskimo speech, reflecting Bering Eskimo influence, but also reflecting in situ development and influences from many other directions. In Cook Inlet and on the upper Alaska Peninsula, Dena'ina Athabaskans were expanding from the east, establishing themselves as far south as Lake Iliamna and Lake Clark. In Prince William Sound and on the western coast of the Gulf of Alaska (KEJF), Kachemak influences remained strong, although there was contact with the expanding Athabaskans. By contact times, their descendants, the Chugach Eskimo, inhabited the area and were expanding.
On the Aleutian Islands, the Aleutian Tradition of maritime hunters developed and remained strong
until the invading Russians disrupted that area. It is possible that the Aleuts ventured as far east and north
as the lower Alaska Peninsula and the area of ANIA.
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