The Archaeology of Yukon Ice Patches: New Artifacts, Observations, and Insights


  • P. Gregory Hare
  • Christian D. Thomas
  • Timothy N. Topper
  • Ruth M. Gotthardt



ice patch archaeology, throwing dart, bow and arrow, Yukon, alpine, woodland caribou, Dall sheep, caribou dung


Since 1997, more than 207 archaeological objects and 1700 faunal remains have been recovered from 43 melting ice patches in the southern Yukon. The artifacts range in age from a 9000-year-old (calendar) dart shaft to a 19th-century musket ball. This paper provides an update on Yukon ice patch research and summary data on select areas of research conducted since 2003. More than 200 radiocarbon dates have been run on ice patch archaeological and faunal materials, and these data allow us to observe and comment on apparent temporal trends. Analysis undertaken since 2003 has improved our understanding of the development and maintenance of hunting technologies, including dart shaft design, wood selection, and point styles. Of particular interest is the description of three different techniques for the construction of throwing darts and the observation of stability in the hunting technology employed in the study area over seven millennia. Radiocarbon chronologies indicate that this period of stability was followed by an abrupt technological replacement of the throwing dart by the bow and arrow after 1200 BP.