Iyatayet National Historic Landmark

Tiny chipped stone tool next to a dime to show that they are the same length
A tiny chipped stone tool from Iyatayet Site National Historic Landmark

NPS/Andrew Tremayne

Quick Facts

Cape Denbigh Peninsula, Alaska
The first evidence of the Denbigh Flint Complex (2000 - 3000 BC) and the Norton culture (500 BC - AD 400), both pivotal for the understanding of Arctic history.
National Historic Landmark, since January 20, 1961

The Iyatayet site, located on Norton Bay and excavated by pioneer Arctic archaeologist J.L. Giddings, has three separate time periods of occupation. At the bottom, dating to about 5,000 years ago, he found small, beautifully chipped tools, which he christened as the Denbigh Flint Complex and recognized as ancestral to later expressions of Eskimo culture in Alaska.

The overlying Norton culture marked the first appearance of pottery and large permanent winter villages in the Arctic, while the upper level, named Nukleet, was dated to the last millennium.

Giddings’ discovery of the Denbigh Flint Complex did not just represent a local culture, but was later acknowledged as one variation of the Arctic Small Tool tradition, a prehistoric way of life subsequently found along the entire coastline of North America from the Bering Sea to the northernmost tip of Greenland.

More National Historic Landmarks in Alaska

Last updated: December 8, 2017