Obsidian, a kind of volcanic glass, is a material that was commonly used by past inhabitants of Alaska for making stone tools. Hundreds of obsidian artifacts have been recovered by Park archaeologists from investigations throughout Gates of the Arctic.
Because of the particular way obsidian is formed geologically each source of the material has a unique geochemical signature. This is of interest to archaeologists because there are various analytical techniques that can reveal which source on the landscape the material used to make an artifact originally came from. This information can be used to ask numerous questions about cultural relationships such as trade and interaction between groups or landscape use.
The following articles are two short summaries of some of the work conducted recently by Park archaeologists on obsidian artifacts from Gates of the Arctic.
Did You Know?
Chert is a fine-grained rock used by the prehistoric inhabitants of the Brooks Range to create tools like scrapers, knives and spear points. The Brooks Range contains one of the richest deposits of "tool quality" chert in the world.