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Reviewed by:
  • Kal’unek—From Karluk: Kodiak Alutiiq History and the Archaeology of the Karluk One Village Site ed. by Amy Steffian
  • Melonie Ancheta
Amy Steffian, Marny A. Leist, Sven Haakanson Jr., and Patrick Saltonstall, eds. Kal’unek—From Karluk: Kodiak Alutiiq History and the Archaeology of the Karluk One Village Site. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2015. 398 pp. Cloth, $50.00.

While busy generations of villagers fished, foraged, hunted, danced, and played on the shores of the Karluk River on Kodiak Island, Alaska, where incarnation after incarnation of snug, multiroom sod and drift-wood houses studded the riverbanks, those villagers also slowly recorded the history of the village.

But in 1983, under siege from accelerating erosion and in danger of being lost forever, the village of Karluk One became the intense focus of archaeologists, elders, villagers, scholars, researchers, Native organizations, and the like, becoming Alaska’s most revealing and far-reaching archaeological project. This diverse group of people embarked on a project to salvage, record, interpret, and preserve not only the artifacts but also the history of the culture from which they came. Through these artifacts those who lived at Karluk One are revealed in such depth and detail that they begin to take form and fill with substance as we read. Kal’unek—From Karluk is a landmark book that deftly melds the story of the dig with Alutiiq history, ethnology, and anthropology and with the voices of elders, villagers, archaeologists, scholars, and the caretakers of the Karluk One collection, composing a dynamic time line on which the daily life of this ancient village is clearly portrayed and Alutiiq history is revealed in dramatic detail.

Edited by Amy Steffian (director of research and publication, Alutiiq Museum), Marnie Leist (curator of collection, Alutiiq Museum), Sven Haakanson Jr. (curator of Native American anthropology, Burke Museum, Seattle, WA), and Patrick Saltonstall (curator of archaeology, Alutiiq Museum), Kal’unek—From Karluk is a rich and evocative documentary [End Page 475] of the archaeological, ethnographic, environmental, and historical life of Karluk One from the 1400s through the Russian incursion in 1784 and on into this century. This book records the story of village life revealed in layers of homes built one atop the other for more than four hundred years. It contextualizes and celebrates the enormous wealth of artifacts, of which there are more than twenty-six thousand, artifacts that by a coincidence of geography were preserved.

At once engaging, the writing is immediate and always captivating and potent. Although this book is written around the archaeological site and collection, it is an easy and fascinating read for everyone, of interest to academics and scientists and to the average reader. Beautifully enhanced with photographs and illustrations, Kal’unek—From Karluk allows readers to engage fully with the text through these images. Well organized and developed, with impeccable research and scholarship, chapters are organized thematically and encompass the life of both the villagers of Karluk One and the village itself. The first three chapters introduce the project and Karluk One, while chapter 4 introduces us to the collection itself. Chapters 5–7 bring us a more intimate view of daily life in Karluk One over the centuries. Woven through each chapter are the voices of a cross section of the people involved in the Karluk One project, sharing insights, stories, and anecdotes, giving the reader diverse points of view, and adding warmly intimate personality to the text.

The first chapter focuses on giving readers background on and explication of the archaeological project and how it has become a rallying point for Alutiiq people. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss the environment, physical location, and geography of the area, specifically relevant to the extraordinary preservation of Karluk One through six hundred years of occupation. These three chapters provide good prehistoric, protohistoric, and contemporary background for the following chapters, each of which focuses on different aspects of the human activity of Karluk One.

Along with an introduction to the collection and in-depth discussions of the artifacts themselves, chapter 4 addresses critical issues of appropriate protocols for preservation, long-term storage, ownership, curating, and the best ways of using these rare objects for education and expanding...


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pp. 475-477
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