Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: EAGER: Investigation of Stratified Archaeological Deposits at Iita, Foulke Fjord, Northwestern Greenland (Award# 1134977)

PI: Darwent, John Albert J (
Phone: (530) 757.5723 
Institute/Department: U of California, Davis, Department of Anthropology 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ASSP
Program Manager: Dr. Anna Kerttula (
Discipline(s): | Social and Human Sciences\Archaeology |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
This exploratory project will investigate the site of Iita (Etah), which is located in Foulke Fjord, Northwestern Greenland, and is historically renowned for its association with Admiral Robert Peary during his quest for the North Pole. Sitting on a prominent alluvial fan that juts out from the north shore of the fjord, the site is covered with extensive evidence of historic and late prehistoric use in the form of winter house depressions, tent rings, burials, fox traps, and food storage caches. In the summer of 2006, the Inglefield Land Archaeology Project investigated two historic indigenous winter houses as part of a multiyear study of the dynamic cultural changes the Inughuit (Polar Inuit) underwent because of contact with Europeans, Americans, other Inuit groups, and environmental shifts between AD 1700 and 1920. During the excavations of the houses it was discovered that the site contained stratified archaeological deposits, which are exceedingly rare in the High Arctic of North America (most remains sit on the surface of the ground) and invaluable resources for archaeologists trying to reconstruct the prehistoric use of area. It was clear that the buried deposits went back to the Early Thule (AD 1300-1600), the ancestors of the Inuit populations living in the arctic today, as a buried house from the period was discovered. However, in one small section of an excavation unit evidence in the form of stone tools, in context with old ground surfaces, suggests that the site might contain remains of earlier camps of peoples that occupied Inglefield Land 2400 years ago or more known as the Paleoeskimo. The goal of the project is to evaluate whether Iita has the potential to expand our knowledge of the Paleoeskimo use of Inglefield Land. The Paleoeskimo moved into the High Arctic around 4500 years ago but disappeared around 700-800 years ago. Because the 2006 investigations essentially only nicked the Paleoeskimo deposits, the proposed project will undertake excavation of a test trench that will open a larger window into the use of the site. The excavations will be undertaken in collaboration with the Greenland National Museum and Archives and will provide archaeological training for two undergraduates, one from the University of California-Davis and one from the University of Greenland. It is hoped that this small grant will lead to a long-term collaborative relationship with students and researchers at the University in Greenland, and lead to a larger research project on the Paleoeskimo period in Inglefield Land.

Logistics Summary:
This project is supported through National Science Foundation EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) funds. During a field trip in 2012, a research team will investigate the site of Iita (Etah), which is located in Foulke Fjord, Inglefield Land, Northwestern Greenland. Iita is historically renowned for its association with Admiral Robert Peary during his quest for the North Pole. A team of four researchers—two from the University of California-Davis and two from the Greenland National Museum and Archives—will assemble in Kangerlussuaq in August, the Greenlandic pair flying commercially from Nuuk while the U.S. pair travels commercially from the U.S. The team will next fly to the Thule Air Base via Air Greenland Embassy chartered aircraft. After preparing, the team will put-in to the Iita site via helicopter transport from Thule, and they will establish a tent-camp base. The team will spend about a month excavating a series of test units and a trench to assess the potential of Iita for future archaeological research. When the field season is finished in September, the team and its gear will return to Thule via helicopter. The Greenlandic pair will depart Thule via Air Greenland Embassy charter to Kangerlussuaq, flying on to Nuuk via commercial air. The U.S. pair will travel via the AMC channel to Baltimore, and then homeward.

CPS will provide Air Mobility Command (AMC) ticketing and freight between Baltimore and Thule, commercial Air Greenland ticketing and en route lodging for the Greenlandic participants, lodging in Thule, helicopter support, and camping, safety & communication gear. The PI will arrange and pay for all other logistics.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2012Greenland - Inglefield Land08 / 07 / 2012 09 / 11 / 20124
2012Greenland - Thule08 / 02 / 2012 09 / 14 / 20124

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