At the 700-year-old site near the village of Quinhagak – called Nunalleq or Yup’ik for “old village site” – workers have discovered dozens of sod homes just under the tundra.
They’ve recovered thousands of objects that had long been locked in ice. The list includes “miraculously preserved” bentwood bowls, knives with handles, whole clay pots, and carved figures, or “dolls,” some with expressive faces caught in a smile or frown.
Sometimes, they pulled items from puddles of melted permafrost.
“It was melting as fast as we dug,” Knecht said.
The items are placed in a waxy chemical immediately to protect them because they can crumble in minutes if they dry out.
The find includes what may have been a men’s house, or qasgiq, a school where boys learned survival skills from men. Wood shavings lined the floor, perhaps dropped from carving lessons, a common guy activity.
“Boy toys” littered the large house – model kayaks of wood, slate arrow blades still attached to shafts, harpoon points.
The women’s tools, such as moon-shaped ulu knives for cutting through fish and bone-needles for sewing, were found elsewhere.