Collection of Point Barrow Artifacts Returns to Alaska
December 14, 2011
The atlatl thrower received by the UA Museum of the North as part of the Birnirk collection represents prehistoric Eskimo culture dating back to 500 A.D., previously housed at the Harvard Peabody Museum.
The collection was excavated in the early 1950s by a group of Harvard graduate students headed by Wilbert Carter. They completed a three-season program of archaeological work with the support of the Arctic Research Laboratory, established in Barrow by the Office of Naval Research. The collection is owned by the U.S. Navy and was housed for decades at the Harvard Peabody Museum.
The collection contains almost 26,000 items, ranging from hunting tools and harpoon parts to snow goggles and snow knives. The site also offered excellent organic material preservation, producing an exceptionally complete catalog of prehistoric materials, such as wood, bone, antler and even plant fibers.
Besides adding to the UA Museum of the North’s collection, which contains artifacts representing the entire span of Alaska prehistory, the donation represents a research bonanza.
“Carter never published a final report on the site,” Rasic said. “So the data and the documentation have great research potential, both in terms of bringing unpublished data to light and applying modern analytical techniques.
“There are dozens of M.A. thesis projects that could be done with this collection.”
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