Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Thousand Year Old Bronze Artifact in Alaska
Of course it was found in the one location that maximizes the controversy. We now know that a chunk of bronze found its way somehow into the Seward Peninsula which is close by
It certainly is unlikely to have walked and besides the seamanship needed to use primitive vessels to cross over the
Bering Strait was not available. What is plausible is a Chinese vessel coming
into these waters and trading trinkets over a four hundred year window. We already have later occurrences including a
four hundred year Chinese coin in the
that fits the same pattern. Yukon
There is reason to believe that occasional trade trips or accidental incursions took place pretty continuously over the past three thousands of years if not much longer. What did not happen was the establishment of a permanent presence as may have happened in the
basin and much further south. Sacramento
That penetration as far North as the
does support a coast hugging
commerce of some sort that may well have carried on down south. It at least could be two way with some
assurance of a return. Certainly Chinese
shipping was up the task. Alaskan Coast
In the end it all was simply too far away to sustain interest.
Ancient bronze artifact from East Asia unearthed at
archaeology site Alaska
Artifact resembles small, broken buckle, could have been horse ornament
Monday, November 14, 2011
A National Science Foundation-funded excavation led by the University of Colorado Boulder to look at human response to climate change on the Seward Peninsula in Alaska some 1,000 years ago.
By Spero News
A team of researchers led by the
of Colorado Boulder has discovered the
first prehistoric bronze artifact made from a cast ever found in Alaska, a small, buckle-like object found in an ancient
Eskimo dwelling and which likely originated in East Asia.
The artifact consists of two parts -- a rectangular bar, connected to an apparently broken circular ring, said CU-Boulder Research Associate John Hoffecker, who is leading the excavation project. The object, about 2 inches by 1 inch and less than 1 inch thick, was found in August by a team excavating a roughly 1,000-year-old house that had been dug into the side of a beach ridge by early Inupiat Eskimos at Cape Espenberg on the Seward Peninsula, which lies within the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.
Both sections of the artifact are beveled on one side and concave on the other side, indicating it was manufactured in a mold, saidHoffecker, a fellow at CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. A small piece of leather found wrapped around the rectangular bar by the research team yielded a radiocarbon date of roughly A.D. 600, which does not necessarily indicate the age of the object, he said.
"I was totally astonished," said Hoffecker. "The object appears to be older than the house we were excavating by at least a few hundred years."
Hoffecker and his CU-Boulder colleague Owen Mason said the bronze object resembles a belt buckle and may have been used as part of a harness or horse ornament prior to its arrival in
While they speculated the Inupiat Eskimos could have used the
artifact as a clasp for human clothing or perhaps as part of a shaman's
regalia, its function on both continents still remains a puzzle, they said. Alaska
Since bronze metallurgy from
unknown, the artifact likely was produced in East Asia and reflects
long-distance trade from production centers in either Korea, China,
Manchuria or southern Siberia, according to
Mason. It conceivably could have been traded from the steppe region of southern
Siberia, said Hoffecker, where people
began casting bronze several thousand years ago.
Alternatively, some of the earliest Inupiat Eskimos in northwest Alaska -- the direct ancestors of modern Eskimos thought to have migrated into Alaska from adjacent Siberia some 1,500 years ago -- might have brought the object with them from the other side of the Bering Strait. "It was possibly valuable enough so that people hung onto it for generations, passing it down through families," said Mason, an INSTAAR affiliate and co-investigator on the
. Cape Espenbergexcavations
The Seward Peninsula is a prominent, arrowhead-shaped land mass that abuts the Bering Strait separating
Siberia. The peninsula was part of the Bering Land
Bridge linking Asia and North America during the last ice age when sea level
had dropped dramatically, and may have been used by early peoples as a corridor
to migrate from Asia into the New World some
14,000 years ago.
The artifact was discovered in August by
of California, Davis, doctoral student
JeremyFoin under 3 feet of sediment near an entryway to a house at . Other project members
included Chris Darwent of UC Davis,
Claire Alix of the University of Paris, Nancy Bigelow of the
University of Alaska Fairbanks, Max Friesen of the University of
Toronto and Gina Hernandez of the National Park Service. Cape Espenberg
"The shape of the object immediately caught my eye," said Foin, who spotted the soil-covered artifact in an archaeological sifting screen. "After I saw that it clearly had been cast in a mold, my first thought was disbelief, quickly followed by the realization that I had found something of potentially great significance."
The CU-led excavations are part of a National Science Foundation-funded project designed to study human response to climate change at
from A.D. 800 to A.D. 1400, a critical period of cultural change in the western
Arctic, said Mason. Of particular interest are
temperature and environmental changes that may be related to Earth's Medieval
Warm Period that lasted from about A.D. 950 to 1250.
"That particular time period is thought by some to be an analog of what is happening to our environment now as Earth's temperatures are rising," said Mason. "One of our goals is to find out how these people adapted to a changing climate through their subsistence activities."
beach ridges, wave-swept
deposits made of sand and sediment running parallel to the shoreline that were
deposited over centuries, often are capped by blowing sand to form high dunes.
The Cape Espenberg dwellings were dug into the
dunes and shored up with driftwood and occasional whale bones. Cape Espenberg
The team is examining the timing and formation of the beach ridges as well as the contents of peat and pond sediment cores to help them reconstruct the sea-level history and the changing environment faced by
settlers. Information on past climates also is contained in driftwood tree
rings, and the team is working with INSTAAR affiliate Scott Elias, a Cape Espenberg University of London
professor and expert on beetle fossils, who is helping the team reconstruct
past temperatures at . Cape
While the hunting of bowhead whales was a way of life for Inupiat Eskimos at Barrow and Point Hope in northwestern
1,000 years ago, it is still not clear if the
people were whaling, said Mason. While whale baleen -- a strong, flexible
material found in the mouths of whales that acts as a food filter -- and a
variety of whale bones have been found during excavations there, the sea
offshore is extremely shallow and some distance from modern whale migration
routes. However, there is evidence of fishing and seal and caribou hunting by
the group, he said. Cape Espenberg
The Inupiat Eskimos are believed to have occupied
from about A.D. 1000 until the mid-1800s, said Hoffecker. They are part of the
indigenous Eskimo culture that lives in Earth's circumpolar regions like Cape Espenberg Alaska, Siberia and . Canada
The Cape Espenberg site has yielded a treasure trove of several thousand artifacts, including sealing harpoons, fishing spears and lures, a copper needle, slate knives, antler arrow points, a shovel made from a walrus scapula, a beaver incisor pendant, ceramics, and even toy bows and toy harpoons. The bronze artifact unearthed in August is currently under study by prehistoric metallurgical expert and
Professor H. Kory Cooper. Purdue