Castle Hill Archaeological Project Abstract

Griffin, Lion-Eagle HybridCastle Hill, and ships in the harborGriffin, Lion-Eagle Hybrid

During the summers of 1995, 1997, and 1998, the Alaska Office of History and Archaeology conducted archaeological field investigations at Baranof Castle State Historic Site, commonly called Castle Hill. The work, funded by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), was conducted in conjunction with proposed renovation of the state historical park. The archaeological investigations were progressively phased so that larger areas were opened with each successive field season. A total of 172 square meters were excavated to an average depth of about 50 centimeters, producing a collection of 19th century Russian-American artifacts that is unprecedented in size and diversity.

Archaeological work in 1995 consisted of subsurface testing of the proposed construction area to locate and evaluate buried deposits. During the 1997 field season, 52 one-meter squares were excavated adjacent to the proposed trail footprint on a natural terrace at the base of the hill. The discoveries in this area included structural posts and timbers, and a rich historic midden deposit. In 1998, an additional 103 one-meter squares were excavated along the existing and proposed park trails. This resulted in the discovery of at least four Russian period building ruins with associated artifacts. Also discovered during trail construction was a prehistoric shell midden deposit on the northeast slopes of the hill. A C-14 date for the base of the deposit of approximately 1,000 years ago lends credence to oral tradition of a long occupation at the site by Sitka Tlingit prior to the establishment of the Russian settlement.


The approximately 300,000 artifacts from the site have undergone varying levels of analysis by a staff of four archaeologists (McMahan, Grover, Petruzelli, and Thompson) in a series of temporary laboratories in Anchorage. Due to the size of the collection and limitations of funding, it was not possible to intensively analyze the entire collection. Therefore, artifacts from ten (of 172) units were intensively analyzed while the remainder of the collection underwent varying levels of documentation depending on functional and materials groupings. This report is intended to provide basic documentation required by the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106 consultation process and is not intended to address all research opportunities that the data may support.