Variations of Late Prehistoric Houses in Coastal Northwest Alaska: A View from Wales

Roger K. Harritt


A review of literature and archival images reveals a distinctive method of double-walled house construction that predominated at the Beach site at Wales, Alaska, minimally from early contact through ca. 1930. Prior studies have suggested that this house construction form was a widespread convention during the contact period; however, this paper demonstrates that this was not the case. The only other occurrence of this house construction form was a kashim at St. Michael observed by Nelson in the late nineteenth century. The double-walled house represents a set of traits that form a fundamental aspect of the ethnic and group identity of the Kiatanamiut occupants of the Beach site. Recent excavations at Kurigitavik Mound have, however, uncovered remains of a house that is consistent with the double walled construction form. Full documentation of this house awaits the completion of an ongoing excavation and the new data will illuminate the relations between the Kashigitagmiut, Kiatanamiut, and Agianamiut in late prehistoric times.

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