Archaeology Surveys in Denali

Denali National Park & Preserve

a person sketches an archaeological artifact

NPS Photo / Charlotte Bodak

There were two archaeology surveys that were carried out in the park this year. The first was a project investigating the archaeology of the Upper Teklanika River Valley. The objective of the project was to expand upon current knowledge traditional human use of the Teklanika valley which contains archaeology sites that are 12,600 years old. No new sites were recorded during the survey, and one site assessment of a documented site was completed.

The second project investigated the archaeology of the Toklat River. The Toklat river drainage had little to no glaciation during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene (around 10,000 years ago) which may have provided people during these times an advantageous area of occupation for the hunting of ice-age mammals. This area had never been surveyed before. Shovel testing and surface survey were conducted along the river valley with particular emphasis on the areas that were designated as high-potential based on elevation, view shed, and proximity to fresh water sources.

historic artifact strewn around an archaeological site
Overview of the Steep Bluff Historic Site (MMK-197) Which is associated with the construction of the Toklat River Bridge.

Twenty-seven shovel tests (50 cm by 50 cm) were excavated, most of which ended on permafrost approximately 30-40 cm below the surface. No cultural material was found in the shovel tests. Charcoal was collected from what appeared to be a buried natural surface for identification and dating of the landform to try and gain a better understanding of the processes that formed the valley.

Two historic sites were located during this survey. One site is related to construction of the Toklat Bridge and the other appears to be associated with historic mining activities in the area.