Over 8,000 Years of Arctic History

Picture of a fish lure found in the Arctic
Ivory bodied fish hook

NPS/ Molly Conley

Like its namesake, Paatitaaq has layers. It has layers of history that tie cultures together, past and present. Archeologists, like Giddings and Anderson, dug down through the strata to peel those layers back and show us how people thousands of years ago lived and how people today are shaped by those that came before. Archeologists have identified many archeologically defined groups of people that have inhabited and utilized the area throughout the millennia and have given names to the groups based on how long ago they made use of the Kobuk Valley. A few of the names are: Western Thule, Arctic Woodland, and Denbigh. Triangulating evidence, including the last glaciation (Wisconsin Glaciation), evidence of people using this area dates back 8,000-11,000 years.

In addition to the bones of caribou and other subsistence animals, many tools were found here. Among the most common were microblades and scrapers. These would have been used to hunt caribou and then process the animal. Other artifacts were found with ancient structures. Remains of tent-like structures were found as well as larger oval structures. These larger oval structures were most likely “men’s houses”, or kashim. A kashim is a place used for ceremonial practices and community activities. Inside these structures artifacts that relate to tool and weapon making were found. The making of tools and weapons were considered male activities, leading archeologists to think the oval structures are kashims. Tools were also found. Objects that would be used to drill holes, skinning knives, scrapers, knives, and wood working tools are some of the examples of tools found. They were made of obsidian, stone/chert, bone, and antler-all of which were found within the kashim.

Last updated: April 19, 2023

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