An ancient hunting camp excavated in the Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve contains artifact tools crafted by people who survived changing climate conditions in Alaska’s past.
Matcharak II: Matcharak Peninsula Site
Joe Keeney, National Park Service archaeologist, excavated an ancient hunting camp at the Matcharak Peninsula archaeological site on the shore of Matcharak Lake in Northern Alaska. The site contains artifact tools crafted by ancient people; the tools are part of what archaeologists call the Northern Archaic tradition.
“It represents the Mid-Holocene,” Keeney said of the site. The Mid-Holocene was a relatively warm period with shifting climate conditions. “People were adapting to changes.” Northern Archaic people, ancestors of Athabascans, used their skills to survive and thrive. Keeney pointed out some of the artifacts uncovered at the Matcharak site are representative of that culture. Northern Archaic hunters had to be tough and smart– “Major ecological changes were happening,” Keeney outlined. Slow post-ice-age warming had melted ice and opened regions to growth. Habitat changes forced hunter-gatherer groups to develop and adopt new strategies. “There does appear to be a change that happens six or seven thousand years ago.” Keeney: “The forest was moving forward … You are getting a change in the landscape, a change in the animals, and what animals are present in certain areas.”
Animals, particularly caribou, provided Northern Archaic people the supplies they needed for meals, clothing, tools and homes.
Artifact stone tools and well-preserved bones discovered at the site are as much as 7,000 years old. “Up until the point that the Matcharak Peninsula Site was found, you could essentially fit all the identifiable materials from these Northern Archaic sites into a shoebox,” Keeney stated; Northern Archaic artifacts were so rare. “That makes this a very unique site that has such good preservation.” The Matcharak Peninsula Site holds the largest collection of well-preserved bones from the Northern Archaic time period.
Matcharak Peninsula archaeology Alaska hunting Northern Archaic artifacts
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