Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: RAPID: Endangered Archaeology at Iita (Award# 1623802)

PI: LeMoine, Genevieve M (
Phone: (207) 725.3304 
Institute/Department: Bowdoin College, The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ASSP
Program Manager: Dr. Colleen Strawhacker (
Discipline(s): | Social and Human Sciences\Archaeology |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
A team of researchers from Bowdoin, UC Davis, and the National Museum of Greenland will excavate at the site of Iita, Qaasuitsup Kommunia, Greenland. Due to increased ice-free periods in the stormy fall season the site is experiencing rapid erosion. Excavation will focus on unique buried strata dating to the Late Dorset period. The team will also continue documenting and monitoring the erosion there and at the nearby site of Middle Iita, first discovered in 2012 and also eroding. The buried Late Dorset strata at Iita, which date to AD 1050 - 1200 are a unique and valuable resource and are threatened by increasingly rapid erosion of the site. They offer the opportunity to learn about many aspects of Late Dorset Culture, from the importance of exploiting the massive dovekie colony to the demise of the Late Dorset culture as the ancestors of the contemporary Inughuit moved into the area. The clearly separated occupation levels offer an unprecedented opportunity to study and compare well-defined relatively short occupation periods. It will be possible to provide a clearer picture of the lives of families living at the site, and how these may have changed over time. The early Thule levels also present at the site offer the possibility of identifying the nature and extent of interaction (if any) between these two groups. J. Darwent has been documenting erosion at the site since 2006, including dramatic changes noted on his last visit in 2012. In this remote location ongoing evaluation, monitoring, and mitigation of changes due to erosion are difficult. This field work will allow us to both continue monitoring and to partially mitigate impending loss of these significant cultural resources. This work can help raise awareness of, and interest in, the world-wide threat to cultural resources due to rising sea levels, and the specific and more immediate threat to northern resources as a result of diminished sea ice, as well as melting permafrost. Information about the project will be disseminated through both academic and popular channels, before, during, and after the field season. Social media and a project blog will be used to engage both English- and Greenlandic-speakers. Through academic conferences and networks such as iHOpe, the project will also connect with colleagues facing similar issues in the circumpolar north.

Logistics Summary:
This RAPID grant supports researchers in revisiting Iita (Etah), a unique archaeological site in northwestern Greenland containing unique buried strata dating to the Late Dorset period, which the PI first visited in 2006. Recent warming has resulted in Arctic permafrost thaw, earlier spring sea ice melt, and later fall sea ice formation. As a result, important coastal archaeological sites that were once protected by ice are exposed to increased damage and even complete loss due to a combination of melting permafrost and wave erosion during the extended open water season. Iita is an example of these sites, as it contains significant prehistoric and historic archaeological deposits threatened by coastal processes. During a single season, in 2016, a team of six will visit Iita, a coastal site near Qaasuitsup Kommunia, Greenland. They will assemble at Thule Air Base in mid-June, some arriving via commercial flights to Kangerlussuaq with an onward flight to Thule via U.S. Embassy flight; others via Air Military Command (AMC) flight from McGuire Air Force Base to Thule. After spending several days preparing for the work ahead, the team will be transported via helicopter to the field site, where they will establish a tent camp base from which to continue monitoring and to partially mitigate impending loss of the significant cultural resources found at the site. The team will remain at the site until mid-August, when they will take down their base, and depart via helicopter. Back at Thule, the group with prepare cargo and samples for transport, and then disperse. Some will return to the U.S. by AMC, others will fly to Kangerlussuaq via Embassy flight for onward commercial travel to Nuuk.

CPS will provide transport for project personnel & cargo to/from Thule via combination of Air Mobility Command (AMC) and Danish Embassy flights, lodging in Thule and Kangerlussuaq, access to a truck in Thule, helicopter support, Air National Guard (ANG) cargo support, and camp gear/safety equipment. All other logistics will be organized by the researchers and paid through the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2016Greenland - Iita06 / 23 / 2016 08 / 06 / 20166
2016Greenland - Kangerlussuaq06 / 19 / 2016 08 / 09 / 20167
2016Greenland - Thule06 / 20 / 2016 08 / 10 / 20166

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Parameters used to generate this report:, Grant# = "1623802", IPY = "ALL" 
     Number of projects returned based on your query parameters = 1