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Geology of Umnak Island, Eastern Aleutian Islands as Related to the Aleuts

Robert F. Black
Arctic and Alpine Research
Vol. 8, No. 1 (Feb., 1976), pp. 7-35
DOI: 10.2307/1550607
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1550607
Page Count: 29
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Geology of Umnak Island, Eastern Aleutian Islands as Related to the Aleuts
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Abstract

Umnak Island, eastern Aleutian Islands, is capped by active volcanoes, was extensively glaciated, and is being eroded rapidly by the sea. During the Holocene, Umnak and other Aleutian Islands had the most equable climate, the best year-around food supply, and the least displacements of coastlines from sea-level fluctuations of all the Bering Land Bridge, the migration route of ancient peoples to the Western Hemisphere. The Aleuts could have entered the eastern Aleutians after about 11,000 to 12,000 years ago when massive ice caps waned. They were marine oriented, came with boats, and had minimal land-based food resources. The earliest known occupation, at Anangula, is 8400 years old, and existed there perhaps a generation or century. Occupation in southwest Umnak Island was probably continous to the present day, but gaps occur in the early record. Sandy Beach site may date from the abandonment of Anangula and is a large and important area of occupation. Idaliuk and Chaluka were occupied during the Hypsithermal, but only Chaluka is large and carried through to the present. The Aleuts have always been influenced markedly by geologic processes, especially volcanic eruptions, coastal erosion and deposition, and wind-induced upwelling that enhances the marine biomass. The most important geologic event probably was the cutting of strandflats during the Hypsithermal, about 8250 to 3000 years ago. This led to an enormous increase in renewable food resources easily gathered year around and the apparent proliferation of Aleuts in post-Hypsithermal time. A Neoglacial advance to the sea of alpine glaciers does not seem to have affected them.

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