Archeologists Find Prehistoric Alaskan Burials At Coastal Village

Archeologists Find Prehistoric Alaskan Burials At Coastal Village

Lynn Simarski

National Science Foundation-supported archeologists excavating a large prehistoric whaling village at Point Franklin on Alaska’s Arctic coast recently discovered two prehistoric burials, according to Noel Broadbent, program director for Arctic Social Sciences at NSF. The research team leaders, archeologists Glenn Sheehan and Anne Jensen of Bryn Mawr College, immediately informed the local community about the burials, which were discovered at the tunnel entrance to a prehistoric house. (The sod houses had their only entryway from below ground, to prevent cold air from entering the warm interior.)

Local leaders asked the archeologists to recover and study the burials, to inform the community first about the results, and to rebury the skeletons in a nearby area safe from erosion. During reburial on August 10, a local native minister said, “We are now forgetting some things these old people knew, and we want to thank these archeologists for helping us to find and remember some of these things.” The prehistoric houses may range in age from 300-1100 years old; written history in north Alaska only began in 1826. (Study of the frozen prehistoric girl found near Barrow last year helped forge a partnership between the researchers and the native community.)