Human Settlement and Cultural Connection of the Upper Alaska Peninsula

The Savonoski River lies at the geographic center of Katmai National Park and Preserve and is one of the larger contributors to the Naknek Lakes drainage system. The river is glacially fed and lies as a "gate-way" to Hallo Bay and the Pacific Coast. This connection is known in the ethnographic and historical records and likely served as a cultural tie between Native communities on Kodiak and the coast but also with communities in the Bristol Bay area as well. The purpose of this study is to attempt to document this connection based on findings in the archaeological record. An additional and major aspect of this project is to determine how volcanic events may have disrupted this connection. 

A summary of the findings is presented below:

  • Our survey located six new sites and revisited seven;
  • Two large volcanic event about 1000 years ago (Ashes C and D) appear to have negatively impacted human-use in the area;
    • Despite a clear (maybe 2) paleosol developing between the two tephras;
    • Coincidentally, the transition between Norton-Thule is occurring;
  • A distinct fine-grained volcanic material (likely basalt) was identified in the area, and confirmed to have been in use from ~2000 - ~200 years…possibly longer;
  • A new volcanic glass was identified, Group CG; however, at this moment it is not known to have been used prehistorically.

Funding: Katmai National Park and Preserve

The Savonoski River with Illiuk Arm in the background.