A Preliminary Reevaluation of the Punuk-Thule Interface at Wales, Alaska

R. K. Harritt

Abstract

An ongoing archaeology project involving three sites at Wales and a site at nearby Tin City, focuses on the prehistoric acquisition of whaling techniques on the northwest Alaska mainland, and on relations between bearers of Birnirk, Punuk, and Thule cultures of late prehistoric times. Wales is located on the eastern shore of Bering Strait, and before the influenza pandemic of 1917–1918 it was home to 500 Inupiat residents. Preliminary results of the Wales Archaeology Project include a total of 18 new radiocarbon dates, of which five are the first to be obtained for the Beach Site (TEL-026). New dates for Kurigitavik Mound (TEL-079) and the Hillside Site (TEL-025) indicate the cultural deposits are approximately one-half the ages previously assigned by Henry Collins, and frequently used by other researchers. The new dates also indicate partial contemporaneity for the occupations of Kurigitavik and Hillside, and that Kurigitavik was abandoned at approximately the time when the Beach Site was initially settled. Other preliminary results suggest that Kurigitavik inhabitants possessed stronger connections to Asiatic Eskimo cultures than has been suggested previously.

  • R. K. Harritt, University of Alaska Anchorage-ENRI 707 A. St., Anchorage, Alaska 99501

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