Expanding the Kachemak: Surplus Production and the Development of Multi-Season Storage in Alaska’s Kodiak Archipelago

Amy F. Steffian, Patrick G. Saltonstall and Robert E. Kopperl


Surplus production is a hallmark of Alaska’s prehistoric coastal societies. Over the millennia, foragers procured greater quantities of resources with increasing efficiency, developing economies dependent upon storage and institutionalized exchange. In the central Gulf of Alaska, notable evidence of surplus production comes from the late phase of the Kachemak tradition. Since de Laguna’s pioneering studies, archaeologists have noted that intensified fishing, storage, and exchange typify this tradition. However, few have investigated the roots of these behaviors. When, how, and why did foragers begin producing well beyond immediate needs? This paper explores archaeological evidence for surplus production in the Kodiak Archipelago, focusing on patterns in land use, technology, and exchange preserved in Ocean Bay II and Early Kachemak assemblages from the Chiniak Bay region. It suggests that surplus production for the purposes of seasonal food storage began in the Early Kachemak, and accelerated in the Late Kachemak as population levels climbed.

  • Amy F. Steffian, Alutiiq Museum, 215 Mission Road Suite 101, Kodiak, Alaska 99615

  • Patrick G. Saltonstall,Alutiiq Museum, 215 Mission Road Suite 101, Kodiak, Alaska 99615

  • Robert E. Kopperl, Northwest Archaeological Associates, Inc. 5418 20th Avenue NW, Suite 200, Seattle, Washington 98107

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