Aberdeen's Alaska Archaeology is Big News at British Science Festival!

Aberdeen's Alaska Archaeology is Big News at British Science Festival!

University of Aberdeen Archaeologist's attract media attention at British Science Festival 2012.

As the festival is getting into full swing here in Aberdeen, the work of staff in the Department of Archaeology has been attracting international media attention ahead of a series of Archaeology talks and trips tomorrow at the BSF.

In a press conference yesterday, Rick Knecht and his team spoke about their work in Alaska, at the exquisitely preserved site of pre-contact Yup'ik Eskimo site of Nunalleq. Recently returned from a third successful field season near the modern Yup'ik village of Quinhagak, Rick - along with co-investigators Charlotta Hillerdal and Kate Britton - described the site, the unique preservation conditions and unique opportunities for both scientific research and community archaeology. Details of the research have featured in international press, including the Anchorage Daily News and the BBC

Dr Rick Knecht from the University of Aberdeen’s Department said: “Featuring permafrost-preserved house-floors, the site is an early Eskimo winter village, and has yielded tens of thousands of in situ archaeological artefacts and tools. In the first couple of years we found about 7,000 pieces, including items like ivory, woven

"It's preserved by permafrost, and the permafrost is melting due to climate change. As it melts, it exposes the very soft soil to marine erosion: the shoreline retreats and the sites get damaged," exposing the artifacts and the sites themselves, explained Dr Knecht

Ironically, the sites and artifacts released by the effects of global warming may help the scientists better understand how the Yup'ik people adapted to a rapidly changing climate.The site, known as Nunalleq, was inhabited from around AD 1350 to AD 1650, during which time the area suffered through "The Little Ice Age" - a global temperature excursion.

By analyzing extremely well preserved hair found at the site, the team hopes to understand how the people of Nunalleq altered their behaviour with a changing environment.

"We can take this evidence and get an idea of what sort of changes were happening in the Bering Sea ecosystem and what sorts of changes were going on in terms of people's subsistence." said Dr. Kate Britton, who is undertaking stable isotope analysis, in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Dr Knecht added: "I think we'll be looking at a story of resilience in the face of very rapid climate change... this isn't just an area of cultural importance, but we could also create a predictive model about what to expect in the coming decades'

"What is truly unique about this project, is that - through working side by side with local communities - we are able to make connections between the archaeological evidence we find and Yup'ik oral history and tradition" added Dr. Charlotta Hillerdal, who's own research focuses on community and indigenous archaeology, as well as field-work.

Read more about the Department of Archeology's work in Alaska on their 2012 Field Blog and on the university home page.

Rick, Charlotta and Kate will be speaking at the British Science Festival tomorrow (Sunday) on their work in Alaska in Fraser Noble Building 2 (10:00-12:00hr). Archaeology fans will be spoilt for choice, as this session also coincides with another session on the Rising Tide project, featuring our own Caroline Wickham-Jones, held in the Linklater Rooms (10:00-12:00hr). The Department of Archaeology are also guiding a coach trip out to Bennachie, led by Jeff Oliver and Gordon Noble, from 13:00-17:30hr. Book your tickets online now to avoid disappointment!

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