Archaeologist unearthed tens of thousands of artefacts belonging to the Yup’ik people at Nunalleq in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of South-western Alaska, USA. The finds are believed to attest a period of bloody battles between tribes of Indians living in the region prior t0 1700s.
Among the artefacts that spent more than 400 years in the ground are tattoo needles, grass baskets and mats, wood, and ritual masks. The objects made of woven grass are said to have retained traces of its original green colour and represent a variety and intricacy of the woven patterns. The collection is believed to be one of the largest ever recovered from a single site Alaska, and perhaps even the whole Arctic region.
According to archaeologists the time when the artefacts were crafter corresponds with a 550-year chilling of the Earth now known as the Little Ice Age. The coldest years in Alaska, in the mid-1600s, may have been a desperate time, with raids probably launched to steal food and take over hunting and fishing territory. This period is referred to in oral tradition of the Yup’ik communities as the “Bow and Arrow Wars“. Experts state that oral l testimonies passed down from generation to generation speak of the horror of these wars and the archaeological evidence strongly supports this as the remains of women children and elders were unearthed together, suggesting that they were captured and killed.
Archaeologists also face a race against time in the face of melting ice to save the frozen artefacts. Once removed from the earth, they began to deteriorate quickly so the researchers had to act quickly in order to preserve them. As the team started the excavations , it was impossible to conduct conservation work on site and the items recovered were transported, some still covered in earth, to where where professional conservators oversee preservation treatments on the items. Now, the researchers are working in partnership with the local Qanirtuuq Corporation and the village of Quinhagak, located just two miles from the dig, to train local people on the conservation techniques so that the vast majority of conservation work can be done right in Quinhagak.
(after University of Aberdeen, BBC News & Original FM)