Rat Islands Archaeological Research 2003 and 2009: Working toward an Understanding of Regional Cultural, and Environmental Histories

Caroline Funk


Aleuts occupied the islands of the Rat Island group for at least 6,000 years. Previous archaeological studies unevenly targeted Amchitka Island and highly visible coastal sites on Kiska and Rat Islands, skewing perceptions about the use of landscapes, seascapes, and resources by the Aleut of the Rat Islands. Test excavations on Rat Island in 2003 and survey and testing during the 2009 Rats and Birds Project demonstrate the complexity and ubiquity of Aleut landscape use. New data from archaeological survey provide evidence that Rat Islands Aleuts left behind a wide variety of cultural features, including groups of depressions, isolated depressions, isolated lithics, lithic scatters, middens, subsurface cultural strata without surface manifestations, and others. Bird faunal remains from sites on the islands demonstrate that Aleuts on Rat, Amchitka, and Kiska Islands may have targeted different species. Patterns in lithic raw materials in sites also show inter-island variability. The expanded data sets contribute to a better understanding of Aleut history, Rat Islands environmental history, and the relationship between Aleuts and their land- and seascapes.

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