Recent Archaeological Investigations near the Native Village of Shaktoolik, Norton Sound, Alaska + Supplementary Appendix 1 (See Article Tools)


  • John Darwent
  • Christyann M. Darwent
  • Kelly A. Eldridge
  • Jason I. Miszaniec



archaeology, Shaktoolik, Nukleet, Yupiit, Inupiat, house architecture, Norton Sound


Since the early 1950s, when J.L. Giddings completed his work at Cape Denbigh, archaeological investigations in the area of Shaktoolik, Alaska, have been limited. Here we report on renewed investigations in the region that have led to the identification of 134 house features, dating from AD 1100 to the early 1900s, at a site next to the village’s airport. This period spans one of continuity from the Nukleet archaeological culture to the ethnographic Yupiit, followed by a period of upheaval related to Russian trade and a smallpox epidemic that devastated the Indigenous population of the area. Inupiat from the north migrated to Shaktoolik and have occupied the area since the mid-1800s. Sixteen test units were excavated to understand the density of site occupation, extent of organic preservation, age of the deposits, and changes in subsistence over this 800-year period. The most recent Inupiat inhabitants built houses typical of mid 19th- to early 20th-century structures described for the northern Seward Peninsula, which were square, one-room structures with a single, long entrance tunnel. This house style replaced the previous Yup’ik-style multi-roomed structures replete with a labyrinth of tunnels used for defense and escape during inter-village conflict.