Exploring Barling Bay, part 1 of 2

In addition to the lighthouse site, another area of focus for our 2018 survey is Barling Bay, which is located just a couple miles to the west of Old Harbor. While there are no modern settlements in the bay, previous archaeological surveys and historic maps show that there have been villages and smaller seasonal camps in Barling Bay in the past. Our goal in the 2018 survey was to locate substantial historic period sites that would be suitable for future excavation. Barling Bay is easily accessible by boat from Old Harbor, which would make it an ideal place for future excavations because community members of all ages could join us.

Location of Barling Bay relative to Old Harbor.

We started with a list of six sites to test in Barling Bay, which were chosen based on previous survey notes that suggested historic components to the sites. It took our team three days to survey and test these sites. On the first day we started by looking for a site called Ukshivik, which is marked as an abandoned village in the Kodiak Island Borough Maps. We had not been able to find any other information on Ukshivik in the literature or by talking to Old Harbor residents so we were eager to see what we could find on the ground. Unfortunately, once we got to where the site was supposed to be, numerous soil probes and shovel tests did not turn up any cultural material. It is possible that the site was misplaced on the map, because it seems unlikely that a nonexistent site was plotted on a modern official map, but stranger things have happened…

Field team hiking in Barling Bay towards the purported location of Ukshivik. (PC: Ben Fitzhugh)

Despite the setback, the day was not over. At the next place we stopped, we located a previously unrecorded site! Soil probes and test pits uncovered thick, black greasy layers of charcoal-stained soil that contained fragments of wood charcoal and fire cracked rock (angular, oxidized rocks that are the result of superheating in a fire). We call this a new site because it is a couple hundred meters away from any other known site, although it is likely related to some of the other younger sites in Barling Bay. Perhaps the site of a smokehouse operation set a distance away from a settlement? Right now we can only speculate – we need more information to say anything confidently.

See the next post for details about the rest of our Barling Bay survey!

Thick charcoal layer uncovered in a test pit at the new site. (PC: Angel Christiansen)
Field team picking through the charcoal layer at the newly found site in Barling Bay! (PC: Ben Fitzhugh)

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