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knocker

Excavation reveals largest trove of Yup'ik artifacts

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Unfamiliar items washed out on the beach near the Bering Sea village of Quinhagak about five years ago. The curiosities were clearly indigenous to the area, with designs similar to those found in the Yup'ik Eskimo culture of the region. And they were wood, a material that usually decays after a few decades. Yet they were also old.

 

The question was: How old?

 

Warren Jones, general manager of Qanirtuuq, Inc., the village corporation, took some pictures and sent them to anthropologist Rick Knecht.

 

Knecht, who helped establish museums in Kodiak and Unalaska, recognized the artifacts as prehistoric -- that is, before contact between the Yup'ik and Europeans in the 1800s.

 

 

Knecht said the dates of the objects are important, because they bracket a particularly intense chill in the so-called Little Ice Age, an abrupt period of colder-than-usual temperatures and ice advances recorded between 1430 to 1455. It wiped out the Norse settlements in Greenland and hammered crops throughout the northern hemisphere of the Old World. The destruction was well documented in court records in Europe and Asia. But how did it affect Alaskans?

 

That's something Knecht hopes the old village can tell us. "From this site we can learn a huge amount about how people lived before and after the ecosystems changed."

 

Knecht thinks the old village was likely a winter gathering place on the Arolik River, south of modern Quinhagak. It was abandoned after the river shifted. The land is famously moving in this part of the world, constantly rearranged by rivers and ocean currents. The shoreline is rapidly eroding at the old village.

 
Edited by knocker

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