Museum

Archaeology

The Archaeology Collection contains the material remains of prehistoric and historic cultures from throughout Alaska, as well as comparative collections from cultures around the world. The collection consists of over 5,000 accessions, representing more than 750,000 cataloged artifacts. The collections represent the entire archaeological record of Alaska from the earliest sites dating from 14,000+ BP to 20th century historic sites. The collections span the entire geographic range of Alaska from Barrow to Ketchikan and from Eagle to St. Lawrence Island, providing an internationally recognized resource for research into the entire range of human occupation of the Arctic.

The University of Alaska Museum of the North is the primary repository for archaeological collections from the State of Alaska. We maintain agreements with state and federal agencies including the State of Alaska Office of History and Archaeology, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Forest Service, and Department of Defense for the curation of collections from their lands. We also curate collections from private lands and Alaska Native Tribal and Corporation lands. The archaeological record is a part of our shared cultural heritage and an irreplaceable source of information on the human past. Through these cooperative partnerships, the Archaeology Department ensures the preservation of these collections and manages their use for research, exhibit, and education.

The prehistoric Eskimo culture Okvik flourished in the Bering Strait region around 2000 years ago. The Okvik Madonna depicts a mother holding a child or animal and is one of the most exquisite examples of prehistoric Eskimo ivory carving.

Archaeological and ethnographic collections from St. Lawrence Island made in 1926 by Otto Geist formed the initial basis of what would later become the diverse natural and cultural history collections of the University of Alaska Museum of the North. His pioneering and prolific work resulted in a significant collection of prehistoric Eskimo material culture, including the Okvik Madonna. The archaeology holdings include a number of type collections which have been used to define the major prehistoric cultures and traditions of the Arctic including: Arctic Woodland, Okvik, Ipiutak, Birnirk, Denbigh, Denali and Nenana. Particular strengths include prehistoric and historic Eskimo culture from St. Lawrence Island and early Denali and Nenana collections from Interior Alaska.

The Archaeology Department at the University of Alaska Museum of the North continues a tradition of fieldwork and research today. Recent field research projects include excavations at the Snare Creek Site, an historic Han Athabaskan settlement at Coal Creek near the Yukon River; excavations at the Raven Bluff Site, a Late Pleistocene fluted point site in Northwest Alaska; excavations at three Late Prehistoric lakeside village sites containing rock art in Northwest Alaska; and archaeological survey and site testing in the Chignik-Meshik Rivers region near Aniakchak National Park. Collections based research is also conducted by museum staff, graduate students, and visiting researchers. Recent, ongoing, and upcoming archaeological collections research conducted at the University of Alaska Museum of the North includes: basalt, obsidian, and rhyolite sourcing using portable XRF, an analysis of subsistence-related tools from Late Prehistoric sites in Northwest Alaska, prehistoric pottery technology and distribution in Northwest Alaska, evidence of a possible Thule occupation at the Kukulik Site, St. Lawrence Island, the origins of domesticated dogs in Alaska, native Alaskan copper use and distribution, and artifact and faunal analyses from a meat cache assemblage from the Kukulik Site, St. Lawrence Island.

Petroglyphs at Feniak Lake, Noatak National Preserve, AK

Back to Top