Early Human Settlement in Arctic Alaska 2012


Hi all! Thanks for following Wendy's journals. She needed to leave the field site and head back to the lower 48. We hope she will get a chance to journal in the future about her adventures.

What Are They Doing?

A sample of chert unearthed at Raven Bluff, AlaskaA piece of chert unearthed at Raven Bluff, Alaska 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?

Raven Bluff archaeological work site, AlaskaRaven Bluff archaeological work site, Alaska 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.

Expedition Map


Audio journal from Wendy Gorton. [swf file="members/wendy-gorton/audio/wgorton071412.mp3"]
Audio journal from Wendy Gorton. [swf file="members/wendy-gorton/audio/wgorton071512.mp3"]
Out at Kivalina River camp today, cutting through the blazing blue sky, came Stan, our helicopter pilot, and two boys from Kivalina McQueen High School (roughly 120 students). Byron (grade 11) and Roy (grade 10) came off the chopper and got right to work, screening the archaeologists buckets of leftover dirt from their The summer can get a bit boring, they said, because hunting season, like caribou and beluga, doesn't begin until September. So this was a fantastic opportunity for them to check out how archaeologists do their thing, and they're having a great time so far. They quickly learned...
I was so thrilled to be given a quad in my own unit today, Unit 29 with the lovely Ines from Germany. It was really something to wake up at 2am because my tent was too hot! I don't think that has ever happened before-- normally when I camp it's quite the opposite-- I wake up a bit chilly in the middle of the night. The sun was out in full force at 2am, and I'm slowly getting used to it. If you're someone like me who enjoys being outdoors, the endless summer days are fantastic up here in the Arctic because it's more time that you get to be outside! I absolutely love the math involved in...
The cart
I've arrived! After a few legs of flights, I stepped out of Fairbanks International Airport and expected to feel even the tiniest bit of the cool from February's visit, and I was met with warmth and sunshine and some of the coolest cloud patterns I've ever seen! It took my a while to get my Satellite Phone working properly, but I am sending this journal with it. Pretty amazing! After settling into my hotel, it was time to meet a few of my new team members for the expedition, who are all funny and kind and smart. We headed to ground zero at the local Falafel Stand and promptly went to do what...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

5 July 2012 to 16 July 2012
Location: Raven Bluff Base, Alaska
Project Funded Title: Paleoindian Adaptations in Arctic Alaska Viewed from the Raven Bluff Site

Meet the Team

Wendy Gorton's picture
The Equity Project Charter School

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.

Jeff Rasic's picture
Museum of the North and National Park Service
Fairbanks, AK
United States

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.

Ian Buvit's picture
Central Washington University
Ellensburg, WA
United States

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.