Archaeological News

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Posts tagged "alaska"

A race to save one of the world’s best preserved examples of a lost society has been boosted by a major £1 million research grant. The dig in western Alaska is revealing never seen before artefacts as well as providing clues to how past societies dealt with climate change and how global warming could affect us in the future.

Residents of the Yup’ik Eskimo village of Quinhagak first called in archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen in 2009 to carry out a rescue dig after observing their coastline being washed away as a consequence of global warming. Within hours of beginning, the team, working alongside local archaeologists, located a 700-year-old village site which was falling into the sea. Read more.

A team of archaeologists from Brown University have uncovered a Native village site in Northwest Alaska that dates from just before first contact.

The village is one of the biggest archaeological sites discovered in the Arctic. Local residents hope the research will tell them more about their ancestors.

It’s a short walk from the banks of the Kobuk River to a mosquito-infested clearing where archaeologists from Brown University have been uncovering the village.

With a white beard and a multi-pocketed khaki jacket, Dr. Doug Anderson points to large depressions in the ground which he says were once houses. He specializes in the pre-history and early history of Northwest Alaska. In his 50-plus-year career as an Arctic archaeologist, Anderson says he’s never seen a village quite like this one with so many houses connected by a web of tunnels. Read more.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - On a small hill surrounded by boggy muskeg in the Tanana River Valley, prehistoric skin scrapers made of schist, polished slate tools and glass beads were uncovered in the last week.

Based on the design of the tools and the way the animals were butchered, it appears to be an Athabascan campsite from the turn of the 20th century.

“These are very typical Athabascan tools. But you usually think of polished stone tools with the Eskimo area, not in the Interior, so it’s very interesting,” says Chuck Holmes, the archaeologist who first discovered the site several decades ago.

He’s leading a team of 10 graduate students and volunteers at the excavation through June. Read more.

Discovering prehistoric human remains in Interior Alaska is exceedingly rare, thanks to acidic soil in the region. So when three bodies — an adult, young adult and child, all male — were discovered in McGrath in early October, it was an unusual find. On Thursday, that unique find became even more so with the revelation that the bodies are likely more than 500 years old.

The remains were discovered in the village on Oct. 3 as a crew cleared a lot as part of an erosion control project along the Kuskokwim River — which runs near the community of about 350 people situated 220 miles northwest of Anchorage — stumbled across a human skull poking out from the freshly-cleared land.

Despite some in the community’s hopes that the remains might be those of a village elder who went missing about 30 years ago, Alaska State Troopers and an archaeologist concluded the remains were far too old to be the same person. Just how old was more of a surprise. Read more.

ST. MATTHEW ISLAND — “Oh look, another tooth,” said Dennis Griffin, dressed in raingear and caked with wet soil.

Griffin, the state archaeologist with Oregon’s State Historic Preservation Office, has traveled to one of the least-walked hillsides in Alaska to search for evidence of his species. On a tundra rise with a gorgeous view of Hall Island and a nice panorama of St. Matthew Island, he has today found a fox tooth in a decaying jaw, chips of rock where someone made tools, pottery, a plate-size anvil stone and a yellowed walrus tusk cut with deep grooves.

“I’m very glad I extended this plot,” Griffin says.

In two days of digging into a square depression on soft ground near where someone long ago dragged the 20-foot jawbone of a whale, Griffin has unearthed what Native people who probably lived on this lonely island around the time the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock left behind. Read more.

When and how did the first people arrive in the Americas?

For many decades, archaeologists have agreed on an explanation known as the Clovis model. The theory holds that about 13,500 years ago, bands of big-game hunters in Asia followed their prey across an exposed ribbon of land linking Siberia and Alaska and found themselves on a vast, unexplored continent. The route back was later blocked by rising sea levels that swamped the land bridge. Those pioneers were the first Americans.

The theory is based largely on the discovery in 1929 of distinctive stone tools, including sophisticated spear points, near Clovis, N.M. The same kinds of spear points were later identified at sites across North America. After radiocarbon dating was developed in 1949, scholars found that the age of these “Clovis sites” coincided with the appearance at the end of the last ice age of an ice-free corridor of tundra leading down from what is now Alberta and British Columbia to the American Midwest. Read more.

CAMBRIDGE — Around 1860 near Kodiak Island off the south coast of Alaska, an Alutiiq warrior built a streamlined kayak by stretching and sewing the hides of five female sea lions around a sophisticated wooden frame.

A warrior and whaler, he gave his kayak the biurficated, or double bow, his people favored to slice through the rough seas of the Gulf of Alaska to hunt whales with javelin-sized harpoons.

For reasons still unknown, the Alutiiq stitched into the kayak’s surface near its prow several strands of human hair.

Perhaps the last of its kind, the 14-foot, 7-inch kayak is being conserved in a special gallery at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University so visitors can watch. Read more.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A guide known for taking clients to the wildest reaches of Alaska has been charged with helping a man smuggle a 10,000-year-old mammoth fossil out of the state.

Karen Jettmar, director of Equinox Wilderness Expeditions and the author of “The Alaska River Guide,” was indicted Dec. 16 on charges of conspiracy and removing paleontological resource from federal land.

The charges came after a Bureau of Land Management investigation showed a mammoth tusk estimated to be worth $4,000 was removed from public lands near the Kokolik River in Northwest Alaska during a June 2007 guided trip.

Jettmar’s client, who is described in the indictment as a co-conspirator but not named, took the mammoth fossil to Pennsylvania, investigators say.

Alaska is a desirable destination for paleontologists, archaeologists and other prehistoric artifact sleuths. The state has more than 15,000 archaeological sites. Read more.