Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Bronze Artifact from Prehistoric Site in Alaska
The Associated Press has this report on a cast bronze artifact discovered this summer during the excavation of a prehistoric Eskimo site on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska. This article isn't written very clearly, but it appears that the artifact was found in fill outside of, or possibly below, a prehistoric house that was being excavated. A radiocarbon assay taken from a piece of leather wrapped around the artifact gave a date of AD 600.
Prehistoric Eskimo as well as many North American Indian groups, are known to have made artifacts from native copper, but using casting techniques for alloys like bronze has never been seen before. This buckle or piece of harness or whatever it is, most likely was made in China or Korea and somehow made its way across the Bering Strait. I would imagine some analysis of trace elements in the alloy will give a better idea of its origin.
I complained in the original post that I thought the AP article was poorly written. Please take a look at this press release and interview from the University of Colorado that makes what's going on at that site much clearer.