Nuvuk Archaeology Project

The Nuvuk Archaeology Project (NAP) began in 2005 with funding from the US Department of Education’s Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations (ECHO) program, which is part of the No Child Left Behind Act, through a grant to the North Slope Borough and a sub-award to the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC).  In many ways, this project is community driven.  Community members and members of the ECHO Key Advisory Committee approached me about the possibility of involving local high school students in salvage work at Nuvuk at the same time I was preparing to write a proposal to NSF (the National Science Foundation, which funds most research archaeology in the US) to fund the salvage excavations.   At first, they had envisioned a six-week program of fieldwork with students participating, and no analysis.  I pointed out that responsible archaeology (which is what we wanted to teach them) needs to include analysis of the finds and information recovered in order to really learn something, and that it would be very hard to fund and get permits for any project that didn’t include those activities.  We made a plan which included not only excavation, but lab work and analysis, as well as funding for specialized studies such as geomorphology (studies of how land forms–in this case Point Barrow), historic archaeology, and wood analysis plus a great deal of radiocarbon dating (which is pretty expensive).  High school students were involved in everything as much as possible, and as they had time for (a lot of them are very active on sports teams  and travel to away games takes several days!).  So far, they have done survey, testing, midden excavation, burial excavation (under close supervision), mapping, and artifact processing (cleaning, marking and cataloging).  We were able to get large-scale work at Nuvuk under way much more quickly than we could have if we had to wait for the NSF funding.  This was a real plus, as the site was eroding very fast.  Later, funding from NSF (grant #ARC-0726253)  was added to the ECHO funding, and we were able to have a lot more undergraduate and graduate students in the Nuvuk Archaeology Project, as well as to support more specialized studies.

The field crews have all included North Slope high school students, many of whom came back for more than one year.  We have also had three students who attend high school in California, two students from Point Lay, Alaska, and one from Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, so we reach high schools well beyond the community of Barrow. Crews also include graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of institutions, who have provided mentoring to the high school students and varying degrees of archaeological experience to the excavations, as well as having a chance to do Arctic archaeology in cooperation with an Arctic community.  The post-secondary component has been supported mostly by NSF.

In addition, the NAP has hosted high school age students from the Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI), five of whom spent an entire week in the field with the project.  RAHI provides educational enrichment opportunities for academically motivated students from rural high schools in Alaska, which are often too small to offer extra courses.

The NAP has also played host to groups of high school students participating in various scientific exchange programs with North Slope high-school students for one- or two-day field and lab experiences.  We have had an NSF-funded group from Mexico and a group from the ECHO-TREE Alaskan Hawai’ian exchange, and will be working with students from the Mexico-Alaska exchange again in the summer of 2011.  We will also have students from a STEM camp at the local community college visiting our lab later this summer.

6 thoughts on “Nuvuk Archaeology Project

  1. Even a fellow archaeologist can be amazed at where you work. I cannot begin to imagine the conditions you have to deal with. Thanks for the follow, and I’m looking forward to visiting more of your posts. We’re doing two very different things with our blogs, but it’s nice to meet someone who knows where some of my characters are coming from.

  2. Anne, i have an ulu i found at nuvuk before 1990; ivory handle w/saw blade teeth – the ivory handle was sticking out of the ground; i don’t ahve a digital camera to show you – email back if you would like to take pics

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