Arctic Field Projects



Project Title: Dating an umiak frame from the Birnirk collection, Museum of the North, University of Alaska (Award# 1258580)

PI: Rasic, Jeff (Jeff_Rasic@nps.gov)
Phone: (907) 455.0632 
Institute/Department: U of Alaska, Fairbanks, Museum of the North 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ASSP
Program Manager: Dr. Anna Kerttula (akerttul@nsf.gov)
Discipline(s): | Social and Human Sciences |

Project Web Site(s):
NSF_Award_Info: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=12...

Science Summary:
This is a small project to fund Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating and a pilot study of wooden boat frame fragments from the University of Alaskas Museum of the North Birnirk collection; Birnirk is an early Inuit civilization of the north coast of Alaska. In the spring of 2012 the PI identified six umiak fragments from the Birnirk site (Barrow, Alaska) as fragments of a single boat assemblage. 19 additional boat fragments originating from the same and adjacent excavation units have a strong probability of belonging to the same boat and this project would test these fragments to determine whether they are from one or several structures. The significance of these findings is that skin boat frame assemblages are extremely rare in the circumpolar archaeological record; in situ fragments such as those described, in such quantity and from what appears to be fairly early origin, possibly as early as 1300AD, makes these fragments potentially the oldest known umiak frame assemblage in the Arctic. The project will determine whether the fragments are from the same umiak and has the potential to place the structure within a larger chronological and cultural context and ultimately provide insight into early Arctic boat engineering and seafaring.

Logistics Summary:
This is a small project to fund Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating and a pilot study of wooden boat frame fragments from the University of Alaskas Museum of the North Birnirk collection; Birnirk is an early Inuit civilization of the north coast of Alaska. In 1953 while excavating the Pigniq (Birnirk) site near Point Barrow, Alaska, archaeologist Wilbert Carter came across a set of wooden artifacts. Indiscriminately labeled as “boat parts” or “umiak and kayak fragments”, these artifacts were collected and preserved as a part of what is now known as the Birnirk collection at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Close examination of these fragments reveals that they are parts of a single umiak frame assemblage, which was built about 1,000 years ago. Some constructional details of this boat link this unique find with boat building tradition of Eastern Canada and Greenland, and allow a glance into the maritime history of the Iñupiaq people a millennium ago. No fieldwork is proposed.




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Parameters used to generate this report:, Grant# = "1258580", IPY = "ALL" 
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