Reading #2

Theme 1: Ethnic Identity

Period: Precontact
Type of Evidence: Archaeological Surveys

Little archaeological work has been performed on St. George Island, but all sites where settlements could have existed have been tested. Major sites inhabited by islanders within the last 200 years have been found at Zapadni Bay, Staraya Artil (translated from the Russian as "Old Settlement"), and Garden Cove. In addition, in the present village of St. George, occupied since the 1820s, a number of artifacts have been found. Other small sites on the island include a lookout camp, a reindeer corral, and several stone cairns.

The following excerpt, taken from a 1986 report by Douglas W. Veltre and Mary J. Veltre (Early Settlements on St. George Island: Archaeological Survey of Three Russian Period Sites in the Pribilof Islands, Alaska, pp. 36-7), describes the archaeological situation on the island:

. . . We consider it very unlikely that any additional archaeological sites . . . exist on the island. Two factors underlie this assertion. First, coastal areas suitable for human settlement on the island are extremely limited, especially when one considers that people must share much of those areas with a large fur seal population. Unless one postulates that people maintained settlements in the islandís interior or on high cliffs without ready access to the sea, there are no remaining areas of high probability for yet undiscovered archaeological materials. . . .

Finally, no material evidence of precontact remains is known from St. George, and we consider it extremely unlikely that any ever will. St. George, like St. Paul . . . [is an island] which cannot be seen from any other land mass (except between St. Paul and St. George) and from which no other land mass can be seen. They are also islands from which no evidence of precontact occupation has yet come. It appears that geographic isolation may have hindered discovery and occupation of St. George in the pre-Russian period.

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