The Importance of Birds in Ocean Bay Subsistence: Results from the Mink Island Site, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Molly R. Casperson

Abstract

Ocean Bay is the oldest archaeological culture (7500–2800 cal B.P.) documented on the Pacific coast of the Alaska Peninsula. Until now, research has primarily focused on the use of marine mammals and fish by Ocean Bay groups, but the role of birds in Ocean Bay subsistence has not been intensively investigated. This paper presents the results of analysis of the bird remains from the oldest components, or “Lower Midden” (7500–4100 cal B.P.), of the Mink Island archaeological site (49-XMK-030), located on an unnamed island along the coast of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. The Lower Midden bird assemblage is well preserved, extensive, and the oldest known from the Pacific coast of the Alaska Peninsula. An estimated 40,000 bird bone fragments were recovered, of which 10% were identifiable to at least the family level, demonstrating that birds, particularly murres (Uria spp.), cormorants (Phalacrocorax spp.), and anatids, were an important seasonal resource in marine-based economies by the Middle Holocene. The Lower Midden bird remains and four other avifaunal assemblages from archaeological sites on the Katmai coast and Kodiak Island, including the Takli Island (49-XMK-012), Tiny Island Village (49-XMK-106), Tiny Island Passage I (49-XMK-109), and Rice Ridge (49-KOD-363) sites are found to share similarities.

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