Archeologists often race against the time as erosion and other forces destroy sites. At Katmai National Park & Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula, across from Kodiak Island, there is still much to learn about the history of ancient occupation along the Alagnak River. Archeological testing at a village site occupied between about 2300 and 1200 years ago reveals both details about village life and the need to monitor, evaluate, and respond to the erosional threats to this important place.
In 1997 and 2001, NPS archeologists at Katmai identified and mapped a multi-component village site (DIL-161), along the Alagnak River, on the Alaska Peninsula. The site consists of a large prehistoric settlement and a twentieth century historic cabin complex. One of the prehistoric houses was about 1,800 years old, but the archeologists suspected that there could be many occupations represented at this extensive site. They noted that the river was severely eroding archeological features along the river bank.
In 2004, four NPS archeologists returned to this site to conduct an intensive survey and testing program. Their goals were to define the extent of the site, identify houses and other features, determine the length of occupation, and to evaluate the significance of information being lost to active river bank erosion. The program included mapping by laser transit, testing with a soil probe to identify features and site boundaries, and excavating test units.
Mapping and testing revealed that the site occupied 3.8 acres and contained 46 prehistoric and 7 historic features. Most of the prehistoric features were deep depressions that were the remains of house pits. Some of the features might also have been large community gathering places and small pits used to store food. The crew conducted test excavations inside five houses, two of which are rapidly eroding, and in two areas outside the houses.