Warming arctic temperatures are threatening sensitive Eskimo archaeological sites in Alaska, according to researchers from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. At a September 7th press conference, which was held in conjunction with the British Science Festival in Aberdeen, archaeologist Rick Knecht and colleagues discussed their work at the Yup’ik Eskimo site of Nunalleq. The site, now under threat, was inhabited from approximately 1350 AD to 1650 AD.
At the press conference, Knecht said that the site is “preserved by permafrost, and the permafrost is melting due to climate change.” As the permafrost melts, he explains, “it exposes the very soft soil to marine erosion. The shoreline retreats and the sites get damaged.”
The University describes the work of Knecht’s team as “the first large-scale archaeological investigation into the prehistory” of the region. Knecht said the Nunalleq site is “an early Eskimo winter village.” The site “has yielded tens of thousands of in situ archaeological artifacts and tools, including preserved beach rye grass baskets and cordage” that are “extremely rare in any archaeological context.” He also noted that “the preserved human hair, fur, plant and other bioarchaeological materials are also among the largest and best preserved collections of their kind ever recovered.”
Photos: The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta by NASA; Yup’ik artifacts by University of Aberdeen