News & Events

Noon seminar - Changing climate and human settlement at Cape Espenberg, Northwest Alaska

Monday, November 29, 2010, 12:00PM - 1:00PM


John Hoffecker



ARC 620

Groups of former houses and associated features are spread across ten beach ridges near the tip of Cape Espenberg (northern Seward Peninsula), representing at least 700 years of Iñupiat settlement. During the second phase (2010) of a three-year interdisciplinary project, houses were excavated on three ridges dating collectively to roughly AD 1300–1800. Core samples were taken from ponds and bogs to construct a local record of past climate change. The excavated houses are small, but yielded a wealth of artifacts and faunal remains, which will be used to address questions concerning social and economic change in the context of changing climates in the Kotzebue Sound region. Among the artifacts of particular interest recovered this year are a piece of slat armor and a copper needle (both from a house recently dated to AD 1600–1700). A major issue is the role of whaling in the economy of the inhabitants of Cape Espenberg; whale bones are found on the ridges and in the houses, but their interpretation is problematic.