- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

NOME, Alaska (AP) - A long-missing plaque designating ancient hunting camps near a Norton Sound community on Alaska’s western coast as a National Historic Landmark has been returned to the community of Shaktoolik.

Archeologists uncovered the site during a dig in 1948. The find helped provide a clear understanding of when humans first crossed Alaska, Nome radio station KNOM reported (http://is.gd/AXrMKX).

Up until that time, it was believed humans were present in Alaska 2,000 years ago, but the artifacts uncovered from the campground found on a terrace near Shaktoolik had artifacts dating back 5,000 years. Kawerak Inc., the regional nonprofit organization formed by the Being Straits Native Corp., dates the site between 6,000 to 8,000 years old, according to its website.

The site was called Iyatayet, and it was registered as a landmark 50 years ago. But years later, the plaque disappeared.

It was recently located in the National Park Service office in Fairbanks. Last week, it was returned to the Shaktoolik Native Corp.

“The plaque commemorates the fact that (Iyatayet) is an important archaeological site in United States history, as well as the village,” Jeanette Koelsch, superintendent of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, said during the ceremony.

The plaque is displayed in a glass cabinet at the school alongside items like spearheads, spear stems and ivory carvings from the ancient campground recently returned in February from California State University, Monterey Bay.

“Our kids some day will be our leaders, and it really raised their spirits up when we put the display of the artifacts in the glass. They were very proud and indicated that, ‘Wow, we have a museum in the school.’ And the artifacts bring pride to our families,” said Teresa Perry, president of the Shaktoolik IRA Council, the governing body of Shaktoolik tribal members.

Perry, whose grandfather helped with the archaeological dig in the 1940s, said more artifacts remain at the site, but a storm last November caused about 15 feet of erosion.

“Climate change impacts so many things in different ways, but one thing that makes archaeological sites really vulnerable is that they’re part of the landscape. You can’t move an archaeological site, and they’re really hard to protect from large natural processes like erosion or permafrost thawing. There’s no way to do that. And then you can’t replicate the site,” said Shelby Anderson, an assistant professor at Portland State University and an archaeologist working with the National Parks Service.

Anderson will return to the site, about 400 northwest of Anchorage, next summer to document how both human and natural forces are shaping the area. Anderson also will come up with recommendations on how best to preserve what remains.

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Information from: KNOM-AM, http://www.knom.org

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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