ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Over the past five years, a partnership between the village of Quinhagak, located near the Bering Sea, and Scotland’s
University of Aberdeen has uncovered thousands of artifacts from an Alaskan village dating to the days before European contact. Many of the objects date between 1350 and 1670, a time little understood by scholars. “This is easily the largest collection of pre-contact Yup’ik material anywhere,” said anthropologist Rick Knecht. “Because it’s been in permafrost until now, the level of preservation is just marvelous. Eighty percent of what we’re finding is wood or other organics. A lot of them are preserved to the extent that they still have original paint on them,” he explained. Some of the remarkable finds include sealskin clothing, grass basketry, and ropes made from grass and roots. Knecht estimates that only a quarter of the site remains because of the shifting banks and eroding shoreline of the Arolik River. “It’s kind of an emergency,” he added.