UK funds archeology at Alaska's 'melting village'

Mike Dunham

The United Kingdom's Arts and Humanities Research Council recently announced a $1.8 million grant to continue work at the Nunalleq archeological site west of Bethel.

Excavations in previous seasons have been led by Rick Knecht with an international team of volunteers, Quinhagak residents and professionals from the University of Aberdeen Scotland, where Knecht, a former Alaskan, is on the faculty.

Knecht told the Daily News that he will be back in the state this summer and that most activity at the site will take place in August.

The Nunalleq dig has produced what is said to be the greatest trove of pre-contact Yup'ik items ever found, with some well-preserved objects dating back hundreds of years. Investigation of the area is being undertaken with urgency since the site on the shore of the Bering Sea is rapidly eroding.

The Scotsman newspaper of Edinburgh referred to Nunalleq as "the 'melting village' of Alaska" and called the find an example "of a lost society."

The dig is a short distance from the present-day village of Quinhagak. Elders of the community and archeologists have been able to identify many items recovered in previous seasons.

Objects found at the site have been transferred to various institutions, mostly in Europe, to be stabilized, studied and photographed. Plans call for them to be returned to a proposed regional repository in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.