GEOMORPHOLOGY IS ARCHAEOLOGICAL DESTINY: CHALLENGES IN RECONSTRUCTING HABITATIONS ALONG THE KAMCHATKA-KURIL SUBDUCTION ZONE
There is a classic site on Kamchatka (Ushki) in the Russian Far East that has essentially a full-Holocene record, yet attempts to find other sites older than about mid-Holocene in this region have been challenging. If we assume for sake of argument that there have been people (beyond Ushki) on Kamchatka throughout the Holocene, there are at least three reasons that sites could be hard to find: 1) erosion and displacement (such as from landslides), 2) deep burial by volcanic products (and landslides), and submergence due to Holocene sea-level rise.
We have attempted to address these problems of evaluating the relationships among occupation, hazard and preservation in collaboration with archaeologists in the Russian Far East. Our tasks have included reconstructing landscapes over time and providing tephrochronological age control for different study sites. We have been part of the multi-disciplinary Kuril Biocomplexity Project (MacInnes et al., this meeting) focused on the central Kuril Islands and also the International Collaborative Circumpolar Archaeological Project (ICCAP) focused on the area west of the Kamchatsky Peninsula in east-central Kamchatka.
During the Holocene, these regions have experienced many kinds of dramatic natural events and processes including strong earthquakes, destructive tsunamis, co-seismic subsidence and uplift, crustal faulting, and volcanic ash-falls. Even in the periods of documented occupation (later Holocene), these natural processes have dramatically altered the topography, drainage patterns and environment of the study area. Before attempting to attribute aspects of archaeological records to influence of natural hazards, we must consider such geomorphological biases.