Cast Bronze Buckle Found In An Ancient Eskimo Dwelling
November 15, 2011

Cast Bronze Buckle Found In An Ancient Eskimo Dwelling

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have discovered the first cast prehistoric bronze artifact found in an ancient Eskimo dwelling. The researchers believe the object to have been made in East Asia. The function of the object has scientists puzzled. The Eskimos could have used the object to clasp on their clothing or may have been worn by a shaman in religious practices.

The object contains two parts, a rectangular bar connected to a broken circular ring. The object is 2 inches by 1 inch and less than 1 inch thick. It was found in August while the research team was digging up a 1000 year old dwelling that had been dug into the side of a beach ridge. Both sections of the piece were beveled on one side and concave on the other, indicating that it had been molded. Radiocarbon dating on an attached piece of leather indicated the date of the object at A.D. 600.

John Hoffecker, who leads the expedition said, “I was totally astonished. The object appears to be older than the house we were excavating by at least a few hundred years.”

The scientists speculate that the object was brought into Alaska from East Asia, from someplace like Korea, China, Manchuria or southern Siberia because bronze metallurgy from Alaska is unknown. Owen Mason, a colleague of Hoffecker, speculates the object was carried over by the Inuit people over the land bridge. He said, “It was possibly valuable enough so that people hung onto it for generations, passing it down through families.”

The Eskimo home site, located at Cape Espenberg, is the focal point of a climate change study by the National Science Foundation. They are studying the sediments and beach ridges in the area to discover what the human response was by the change in climate around the Medieval Warm Period that lasted from A.D. 950 to 1250.

According to Mason, “That particular time period is thought by some to be an analog of what is happening to our environment now as Earth´s temperatures are rising. One of our goals is to find out how these people adapted to a changing climate through their subsistence activities.”

Other objects found at the site include sealing harpoons, fishing spears and lures, a copper needle, slate knives, antler arrow points, a shovel made from a walrus scapula, a beaver incisor pendant, ceramics and toy bows and toy harpoons.


Image Caption: A National Science Foundation-funded excavation led by the University of Colorado Boulder to look at human response to climate change on the Seward Peninsula in Alaska some 1,000 years ago has yielded a bronze artifact resembling a buckle that was found inside an ancient house dug into the side of a sand-covered beach ridge once occupied by Inupiat Eskimos. The object is the first prehistoric bronze artifact made from a cast ever found in Alaska and appears to have originated in East Asia. Credit: Jeremy Foin, University of California, Davis


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