New videos about the Mead Archaeological Site

Mead Archaeological Site Dig science videos artifact

October 6, 2015— Frontier Scientists presents field science in the Far North in two new videos: Mead Archaeological Site, Alaska, Part 1 and Part 2. The videos feature Dr. Ben A. Potter, University of Alaska Fairbanks Associate Professor, as well as graduate students participating in excavations. Together they’re refining what we know about human history and how humans responded to past environmental change.

Alaska’s Upper Tanana Valley holds some of the oldest sites in northwest North America. At Mead Site deep stratified layers of soil hide artifacts from resilient people who lived long ago. The archaeologists have confirmed eight different occupations at the site. Potter: “The earliest we’ve dated goes back to 13,500 years ago which is before the Younger Dryas, it’s in the Ice Age during the period of deglaciation (a period of warming) and also associated with the earliest peoples that are coming into the New World.” About 30 centimeters below the artifacts dated to 13,500 years ago lay artifacts from a still earlier occupation that have yet to be dated. Mead Site shelters artifacts dating from earlier than 13,500 years ago to 1,400 years ago.

Artifact craftsmanship, i.e. how projectile point tools were created, shows links between occupations. “We can actually say the people here, at least at this site, pre- and post- Younger Dryas are the same people. That they managed to survive that particular cold episode which is over a 1000 year duration is amazing,” said Potter. “It informs us more about continuity: about the stability, the resilience of the adaptations that these populations used in the past.” Findings from the site can tell us more about tool use, subsistence strategies, social organizations and cultures of early people in North America.

Mead also serves as a field school. Potter explained “Part of the intent of these kinds of field schools is to have students prepared to be professional archaeologists.” Students “really get a sense if archaeology is for them.” You can see their excitement. Watch the new videos on

Mead Archaeological Site Dig science videos:

Mead Archaeological Site, Alaska, Part 1

Mead Archaeological Site, Alaska, Part 2


Laura Nielsen 2015

Frontier Scientists: presenting scientific discovery in the Arctic and beyond