Alutiiq Subsistence Economy at Igvak, a Russian-American Artel in the Kodiak Archipelago

Michael A. Etnier, Megan A. Partlow and Nora R. Foster


Igvak was a Russian-American Company fur-hunting outpost (artel) on the south end of Afognak Island that was occupied from the 1790s to about 1830. Midden samples were recovered from deposits adjacent to the Alutiiq workers’ barracks as part of the Dig Afognak program. Although small amounts of European domesticates were identified, the bulk of the diet focused on traditional local foods. The dominant species included cod, harbor seals, and puffins, with a mix of intertidal invertebrates such as mussels, butter clams, and periwinkles. Also common were salmon, cormorants, sea otters, and sea lions. A single species of whale barnacle was identified. The high number of puffin remains may be related to the production of puffin-skin parkas for the Russian-American Company. The site was likely occupied year-round, but the presence of the bones of harbor seal pups and puffin and cormorant chicks confirms a summer occupation.