Editor's Preface

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

The Castle Hill Archaeological Project has been one of those odysseys every archaeologist aspires for. With universal support from the community of Sitka, and under the watchful eye of the media, we produced an enormous data set that has already inspired new insights in the interpretation of life in Russian-America. This was accomplished not in the bug-infested camps to which Alaskan archaeologists are accustomed, but in the comfort and scenery of one of the most picturesque settings in the state. The richness of the site, along with a chance to share our findings with Sitka and the academic community, have outweighed frustrations in acquiring the facilities, time, and money to complete the project (refer Appendix 4.3). Our discoveries were the focus of media attention that included coverage by the Associated Press, National Public Radio, Alaska Statewide Television Network, commercial travel videos, and articles in several magazines. Another measure of success, however, is the project’s endorsement in U.S. Department of Transportation guides and videos as an exemplary transportation enhancement project. This is largely due to our cooperative relationship with the contractor, John McGraw, and the positive exposure generated for the Alaska Department of Transportation (NTEC 1999:24-25). The exciting, albeit unanticipated, discovery of architectural ruins and organic-rich midden deposits elevated recovery costs beyond original estimates. Through partnering, volunteer labor, analytic sampling, and in-house conservation, however, we were able to complete the project for less than half the cost of similar projects.

On a personal note, the project provided a "real world" educational challenge in addressing a multi-faceted set of problems. Despite my involvement with numerous archaeological projects over the last three decades, none has been as complex or challenging as Castle Hill. Under the tutelage of generous experts, my staff and I were given the opportunity to explore the complex material culture, mental templates, and world views of early 19th century Sitka. To this end, all of us have sharpened skills in conservation, microscopic analysis, interpretation of various facets of Russian-American material culture, and diplomacy. There are many key areas of analysis in which time did not allow me to be as directly involved as I would have liked. I am forever grateful to my competent crew and co-authors for their hard work in these areas.

Dave McMahan