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Alaska’s Thaw Reveals—and Threatens—a Culture’s Artifacts

March 27, 2017

Alaska’s Thaw Reveals—and Threatens—a Culture’s Artifacts

As global climate change affects the polar regions, artifacts from prehistoric cultures are exposed at alarming rates and are in danger of being lost.  Archeologists are beginning to specialize in the recovery and rescue of many lost civiliaztions, but cannot get to them all.

At Nunalleq, on the southwest coast of Alaska, archeologists have recovered more than 2500 intact, well preserved artifacts.  These items were once frozen in the ground sins 1660.  

Alaska’s Thaw Reveals—and Threatens—a Culture’s Artifacts

A.A. Williams on nationalgeographic.com

The archaeological site of Nunalleq on the southwest coast of Alaska preserves a fateful moment, frozen in time. The muddy square of earth is full of everyday things that the indigenous Yupik people used to survive and to celebrate life here, all left just as they lay when a deadly attack came almost four centuries ago.

Around the perimeter of what was once a large sod structure are traces of fire used to smoke out the residents—some 50 people, probably an alliance of extended families, who lived here when they weren’t out hunting, fishing, and gathering plants. No one, it seems, was spared. Archaeologists unearthed the remains of someone, likely a woman, who appears to have succumbed to smoke inhalation as she tried to dig an escape tunnel under a wall. Skeletons of women, children, and elders were found together, facedown in the mud, suggesting that they were captured and killed.

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