- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - Residents of the southwest Alaska village of Quinhagak are hoping ancient hair found at a nearby archaeological dig will yield information about possible ancestral ties.

The hair and other genetic samples were among items preserved by permafrost that were found at the site of an ancient village 5 miles outside the Yup’ik community, KYUK reported (http://is.gd/c3qKr7 ).

Archaeologist Rick Knecht with the University of Aberdeen in Scotland is in charge of the dig, which is funded by the village Native corporation, Qanirtuuq Inc., and a $1.8 million grant from the UK-based Arts and Humanities Research Project.

Knecht said some hair samples went toward a study of indigenous Alaskans that was outlined this summer in the journal Science.

Village corporation president Warren Jones said the corporation wants to see the DNA of ancient people who might be ancestors compared with that of Quinhagak residents.

“The archaeologists know what they’re doing. And everything they dig out is going to be brought back to us,” Jones said. “So it will be back here for our future, children, generations.”

The study was led by Danish researchers and concluded that modern Inuit people, including people in Alaska, descended from the Thule, who were on the scene about 700 years ago. The Thule replaced an earlier population called Paleo-Eskimos.

The dig near Quinhagak is at the site of an ancient Yup’ik village that was called Araliq. Knecht said permafrost there preserved artifacts dating back 700 years and included wood and leather that normally would have disintegrated. The site contained a wealth of artifacts.

“We’re getting things like weapons and kayak parts, masks and artwork, things that you normally just see in museums,” Knecht said. “And these all date from between about 1400 and 1600 AD.”

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Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org

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