|Organization:||Alutiiq Heritage Foundation|
|Program Area:||Arts, Culture, Humanities \ Museum|
Sharing 7,500 years of Kodiak's cultural heritage
Alutiiq Museum and
The Alutiiq Museum & Archaeological Repository preserves and shares the cultural traditions of the Alutiiq people through exhibits, educational programs, publications, anthropological research, and the care of traditional objects.
We'd been unearthing feathers, shells and wood and bone fragments all day, normal fare for an old midden, or prehistoric landfill, as archaeologist Rick Knecht called it. Then one of the diggers gasped as she
scraped away a layer of dark loam and saw a
palm-sized wooden face staring up at her.
The tiny sculpture was unusual in its detail. On one side a raised brow arched over an angular eye and grinning lips. But the other side of the face was markedly different, with a drooping eye and down-turned mouth. It was as if the classic Greek masks of comedy and tragedy were merged into one. There was a familiarity to it that I could not pinpoint until Rick spoke. The carving, he speculated, could depict a stroke victim.
I thought of the man who was the model for that tiny carving. He had lived here, looked at the same vista of sea and sky and had been cared for by family and friends. That ancient, stricken face humanized Kodiak prehistory in a way that no lesson, no book, no picture ever had. And the importance of preserving and displaying prehistoric artifacts like it became clear.
In the past, artifacts like this would have gone off island to be preserved, catalogued and most likely stored away in a museum archive. But these would be going to the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository then under construction in the city of Kodiak. The Karluk site yielded many artifacts some of which are displayed at the museum.
I often wonder if visitors see that old, lopsided face and if it speaks to them now, the same way it spoke to me.