Fitzhugh, B. 2003. The evolution of complex hunter-gatherers. Archaeological evidence from the North Pacific. – New York, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers
In recent years, the ancient hunter-gatherer societies of western Alaska and the Pacific Northwest coast have come under long overdue, and welcome, archaeological scrutiny. A series of important field surveys and excavations have examined the rise of cultural complexity both in the Aleutian Islands and in southeastern Alaska, in an attempt to establish the relationship between this emerging intricacy and a seeming abundance of maritime resources throughout the region. Ben Fitzhugh’s survey of Sitkalidak Island, which lies off the southeastern shore of Kodiak Island, homeland of the Alutiiq people, examines its colonisation and subsequent 7,500-year history from a behavioural ecological perspective. He draws insights from cultural ecology, neo-Marxism, and practice theory.
Fitzhugh uses a synthesis of behavioural ecology and processual archaeology to explain the emergence of cultural complexity in his study area, while also paying close attention to the contribution of individuals, an essential component of practice theory. He begins with a description of the Kodiak environment, with its important maritime resources, then provides a useful culture historical framework in chapter 3. Human settlement began at least 7,500 years ago and then unfolded with essential cultural continuity right into historic times. The culture history suffers from precise chronological resolution, which must await further research. Such an accurate time scale would permit more detailed study of the transitions between different cultural stages such as Ocean Bay and Kachemak about 3,200 years ago. Chapter 4 is devoted to a description of ethnohistoric Alutiiq culture and society, which was based hunting and gathering, a society where feasting, competitive display, and acquiring status were of pre-eminent importance. Read more...