Archeology

Imuruk Lake Cave, Cache of kayak paddles, Western Arctic National Parklands

The scientific study of the human past.

What is Archeology?

Archeology is the scientific study of the human past. Archeologists study things people left behind called artifacts. Artifacts can be fascinating, but archaeologists are much more interested in the information the artifacts contain. Archeology can also contribute to modern society by telling us how humans adapted to their environments in the past and how they adapted to changes such as climate change.

Archeology in Alaska

Archeologists have found that people have been in Alaska for at least 14,000 years. Some of the oldest archeological sites in North America are located in Alaska. While archeologists have learned a great deal about the prehistory of Alaska, they’ve barely scratched the surface of understanding who lived in different areas and when. Archeologists are just starting to understand how various cultural groups adapted to extreme environments and rapid environmental changes through time. The story of how people first came to Alaska, and by what means, is a remarkable and fascinating one that is far from complete, and may never be due to the vast, remote and dynamic landscape.

How You Can Help

NPS archeologists and the public are responsible for protecting and preserving our cultural heritage. Archeological sites and artifacts are non-renewable. If they are intentionally or inadvertently removed, damaged, or destroyed, the information they contain is lost forever. Removing an artifact from its original location takes it out of context, like ripping a page out of a book. All the information and meaning surrounding it is lost.

You can help protect Alaska’s cultural heritage by:

    • Participating in Archaeology Month events (April)-either in Alaska or your home town if you’re a visitor.
    • Contacting your local archeologist or historic society to learn about other events
    • Report any artifact or site discoveries to the nearest archeologist. Do not remove any artifact from where you found it. Take as many photos as you like, and collect a GPS location if possible
    • Dig deeper - There is much more fascinating information about Alaskan archeology and archeology in general.

 

The intentional removal, damage or destruction of any cultural resource on NPS and other federal lands is strictly prohibited and protected under numerous federal laws including the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and other. Offenses are punishable up to $500,000 and 5 years in prison- not including civil penalties.

Want to Know More?

Here is an overview of the prehistory of Alaska.


There are 15 National Parks and Preserves in Alaska. Clicking on the park will produce the general description of the cultural resources in each park.

A BIBLIOGRAPHY of sources on Alaskan Archeology is also available.

For more general information, go to the main National Park Service homepage, or to the National Park Service Cultural Resources homepage Links to the Past.

Contact Us

Email an Archeologist

Last Updated: January 16, 2014