Title

KOROVINSKI: THE ETHNOHISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY OF AN ALEUT AND RUSSIAN SETTLEMENT ON ATKA ISLAND, ALASKA

Date of Completion

January 1979

Keywords

Anthropology, Archaeology

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

In an effort to investigate the archaeological manifestations of Aleut culture change and Russian-Aleut interaction, field research was conducted in 1974-1976 at the site of Korovinski on Atka Island, Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Atka Island was a locus of Russian and Aleut fur-hunting activities in the central Aleutian Islands during the late 1700s, and from 1799 to 1867 the western office of the Russian-American Company was located there. The Russian-American Company had monopolistic rights to hunting in Russian America, making extensive use of Aleut labor.^ Based upon preliminary testing of the site, which showed a prehistoric cultural component, several main problems were investigated. These included defining the nature of the prehistoric occupation of the site, identifying whether initial Russian contact at the site was intermittent or represented by a full-blown settlement, and determining when in the historic period Russian settlement at the site took place.^ Archaeological data were supplemented both by documentary materials, which included such things as church records, histories, and early maps of the area as well as by ethnographic information, including some collected from the Aleut residents of the present village of Atka.^ Major results of the research include the following: Korovinski was initially occupied approximately 2000 B.P. and functioned without apparent interruption as an Aleut base village unit ca. A.D. 1400. Prehistoric artifacts are largely typical of those found in the central and eastern Aleutian Islands during this period. Approximately 550 years ago, occupation at Korovinski was terminated by the deposition of a major volcanic ash, and the site does not appear to have been reoccupied until after the arrival of the Russians to the Aleutians in the mid 1700s. Atka was discovered by Russian fur hunters no later than 1753, but Korovinski was likely not occupied until the early 1800s -- perhaps as late as the 1820s, at which time both Aleuts and Russians settled there. Korovinski was the only permanent settlement on the island at this time, serving as the Russian-American Company office.^ Some 122 surface features were mapped at the site, most of which are postcontact in age. These postcontact features include extensive garden areas, boat slips, sod walls of structures, a Russian Orthodox cemetery, sod circles and a stone circle of unknown function, and drainage ditches. Prehistoric surface features include barabara depressions and umqan burials.^ Korovinski was abandoned as a permanent settlement by the mid 1870s, but the site continues to serve as a hunting and trapping area for the residents of the present day village of Atka, many of whose ancestors once lived at Korovinski. ^