Report from the Ragged Edge: Vanishing Heritage on Alaska’s North Slope

Author(s): Anne Jensen

Year: 2016


The North Slope of Alaska is home to many coastal sites with spectacular preservation, due to frozen conditions. Long considered relatively stable, these sites are now vanishing. Erosion rates have increased exponentially, due to warming permafrost, sea ice retreat and longer ice-free seasons. Coastal erosion reveals structures and features, but they are often destroyed by storms before anything significant can be done. A single recent storm removed over 30 meters of one site.

North Slope archaeological work is extraordinarily expensive, due to remote locations and the huge volumes of organic materials recovered. Many of the sites are on private land, so no agency has responsibility for the heritage resources. Current funding mechanisms do not suit such situations, as the process is such that funds cannot be available during the next field season, even if a successful proposal is prepared on very short notice.

North Slope residents are very concerned at the loss of their cultural heritage. The municipal government agency that has heritage responsibilities cannot handle the issue alone. A variety of avenues for community participation are being developed to provide opportunities for members of the public to assist in protecting their heritage.

Cite this Record

Report from the Ragged Edge: Vanishing Heritage on Alaska’s North Slope. Anne Jensen. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403130)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -178.41; min lat: 62.104 ; max long: 178.77; max lat: 83.52 ;