Early Human Settlement in Arctic Alaska 2012
What Are They Doing?
The team excavated portions of the Raven Bluff archaeological site, the remains of a prehistoric camp that date to the very end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago. The site in Northwestern Alaska is important because it contains the oldest well-preserved collection of archaeological animal bone in the American Arctic. The goal of this research was to gather information at the site that can teach us about what the people who occupied the Raven Bluff site ate; how they obtained, processed and stored their food; and how they manufactured their tools, clothing, and housing.
The site also contains fluted projectile points – a type of stone spear tip that is associated with many of the earliest archaeological sites in the continental United States. Fluted projectile points have been found throughout the Americas, but have never been reliably dated in Alaska. Because people migrated from north-to-south after entering the Americas from Asia across the Bering Land Bridge, fluted points in the far north are expected to be older than the fluted projectile points found in the continental United States. However, initial findings from Raven Bluff indicate that the fluted projectile points at this site are actually younger than the oldest fluted projectile points in the continental United States. By dating these artifacts, the research team is studying the nature and timing of early human population movements in the Americas.
In addition to providing information on early human settlement patterns, the animal remains from this site may shed light on the long term history of caribou populations in what is now the home of the western arctic caribou herd, a resource of critical importance to local residents and a key issue of concern for biologists and wildlife managers.
Where Are They?
The field team met in Fairbanks, Alaska and flew by chartered aircraft to a private airport at the Red Dog Mine in northwestern Alaska. From the Red Dog Mine, the team, their equipment, and their supplies were shuttled about 50 kilometers by helicopter to a remote field camp near the Raven Bluff archaeological site. Typical challenges of fieldwork in remote northern Alaska include cold, wet weather, mosquitoes and isolation.
Meet the Team
Wendy Gorton is an enthusiastic Google Certified Teacher, Google Apps EDU Certified Trainer, and lifelong learner. Currently, she is a 5th grade social studies teacher and technology developer in New York City. She has taught 4th graders in Los Angeles, and has been an elementary technology coordinator, a university technology specialist, an online teacher, a curriculum developer, and a research assistant. She is passionate about project-based learning and using technology like Google Apps to open her students up to collaboration and to the world! She is particularly passionate about international education, and was recently based out of India as a secondary technology integrator at an American school. She loves working with international teachers to find out how technology can make learning come alive for their students. She has been a conference and webinar presenter for ISTE and CUE, and she has lead educational workshops in Canada, the US, Jamaica, Austria, Singapore, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic on topics such as Google Apps, iPad applications in the classroom, professional development, curriculum development, project-based learning, grant-writing, and global collaboration.
Her Master's degree is in educational technology. Her research focused on exploring how real-world science projects using technology increase student motivation. She is interested in research experiences for teachers, and has helped bring the world of science and social studies to her students as a NOAA Teacher at Sea, Earthwatch Educator Fellow, PolarHusky Teacher Explorer, National Geographic Challenge Teacher, NEH Fellow, and participant in a wide range of projects - from learning archaeology in Wisconsin, and helping build shelters for sick Tasmanian devils in Australia, to dog-sledding in Scandinavia. She enjoys reaching out and volunteering with international organizations, and currently is collaborating with teacher education projects in Jamaica and Nepal.
Dr. Jeff Rasic specializes in prehistoric stone tool technology and the archaeology of northern hunter-gatherers. He is particularly interested in how the earliest people of the North made a living at the end of the last ice age. He is currently the acting curator of Archaeology at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, and an archaeologist at the National Park Service in Fairbanks. He has worked in the Caribbean, and throughout the United States, and since 1995 has focused on field work and research projects in Alaska, especially the northern and interior portions of the state.
Dr. Buvit earned his Ph.D. at Washington State University in 2008 focusing on the geology of Stone Age archaeology sites in southern Siberia. He joined the Raven Bluff program in 2010 as the project geoarchaeologist to reconstruct the landscape around the site when it was occupied, identify natural processes that have altered the original context of the cultural material, and evaluate the age of the site. In addition to Asiatic Russia and arctic Alaska, he also has interests in Ice Age Japanese archaeology. When he is not in the field, Ian is the faculty coordinator of the McNair Scholars program and teaches anthropology at Central Washington University.