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Telling Alaska’s Story: Unearthing the mystery of a hunting bow in Lake Clark National Park

Around 400 years ago, someone lost a wooden hunting bow in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.
Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 9:23 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Around 400 years ago, someone lost a wooden hunting bow in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Then in September 2021, some park employees found it. Let that sink in for a second. A lot of questions start to form.

The bow was found in 2 feet of water. The cold temperature of the water and lack of oxygen probably contributed to the wooden tool surviving out in the elements for so long. The 54-inch long curved strip of wood was transported to the Alaska regional office of the U.S. National Park Service for conservation.

Both scientists and Indigenous experts have been examining the bow, looking for clues as to where it came from. Comparing this artifact to other examples of hunting bows collected in the 19th century, the park service feels this is probably Yupik in origin.

But the Lake Clark area is considered Dena’ina homeland. The Athabascan peoples have lived in the area for thousands of years. So how did a Yupik hunting bow end up here?

In Europe, it seems like archeological discoveries are made on a regular basis. That’s because there is a large population base there. As area are developed, like the building of a new road, artifacts are found. But Alaska is different said Jason Rogers, an archaeologist with the park.

“In Alaska, we just don’t have that kind of development so it’s very rare,” Rogers said. “It’s very rare for us to come across material like this.”

Radiocarbon dating determined the bow was likely created around 1562.

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