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Read, Watch and Listen

Therapeutic Commercialism

Karen Brown, Jeanine Gourong, Helen Hankins, Jonathan Klinger & Louise Wadsworth, “British Wildlife (Deer)”, 2015. Medicine has always functioned as commerce as well as science (or art). ARTHOUSE Meath provides an unusual kind of commercial healthcare venture. Their residential artists, all patients with epilepsy, produce and sell the products of their artistic labour to fund future services: a new form of medicine that is both entrepreneurial and an ethics of care. © ARTHOUSE Meath group collaboration. Courtesy of ARTHOUSE Meath.

The Yup'ik Homeland from the Air

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is low-laying braided river system, and has supported the Yup'ik people and their ancestors for millennia. This landscape is dependent on permafrost for its stability, and its topography renders this region highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly coastal erosion and flooding. The Western Rim of Arctic North America has been called the 'miner's canary of climate change'.

© This image is credited to Rick Knecht, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

A New Day in Quinhagak

The village of Quinhagak lies close to the Bering Sea coast in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The village is home to around 700 people, and is 60 miles from the nearest other village and only accessible by light aircraft.

© This image is credited to Kate Britton, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Catch of the Day

Quinhagak resident Michael Smith prepares fresh salmon using an uluaq, a traditional Yup’ik tool. Subsistence hunting and fishing remain economically important in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta today, and are a key source of community pride, personal and group identity, and cultural resilience. Contemporary ecosystem disruption, and political and social change, are threatening subsistence activities and, through this, community well-being.

© This image is credited to Renee Ronzone, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

A Perfect Storm

Climate change is leading to increasingly unpredictable and unseasonable weather in Western Alaska. Increasing storminess, coupled with melting permafrost, has created ‘a perfect storm’ for rapid coastal erosion – erosion which is now threatening both modern infrastructure and archaeological sites all along the Bering Sea.

© This image is credited to Renee Ronzone, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

A Race Against The Rising Tides

The remains of the Nunalleq archaeological site (AD 1350-1700) cling precariously on the eroding edge of the Bering Sea. Archaeological teams from University of Aberdeen were first invited to investigate the site in 2009, after locals found artefacts eroding onto the beach. Since excavations first began, the coastline here has retreated more than 10 meters. 

© This image is credited to Rick Knecht, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Digging through Time

Work at Nunalleq is the first large scale excavation in an area nearly the size of the UK. More than 35,000 artefacts have been recovered from the Nunalleq site so far by archaeologists, and community volunteers. Permafrost and waterlogged soils at the site have preserved an extensive assemblage of organic remains, including wooden artefacts like these bentwood bowls being excavated by Dr. Sven Haakanson.

© This image is credited to Rick Knecht, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Spirit Worlds at Nunalleq

Excavations at Nunalleq have also found a number of different masks, some complete like this example, and others fragmented. This mask, found in the summer of 2015, is particularly striking. With ivory insets, a beard and whiskers, it is a transformation piece, transcending animal and human worlds.

© This image is credited to Sven Haakanson, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Amazing organics!

Permafrost and waterlogged soils at the site have preserved an extensive assemblage of organic remains, like the basketry shown in this picture. These kinds of materials are rarely found at archaeological sites, as they would normally decay, but Nunalleq has yielded many preserved wooden artefacts, seeds, plants, animal fur, and even cut strands of human hair (the waste from prehistoric haircuts). Laid on the woven grass are a pair of carved ivory earrings found at the site.

© This image is credited to Sven Haakanson, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Archaeological Survey

An important part of the Nunalleq project is identifying new sites that could be under threat. This involves co-learning and knowledge exchange with community partners. Archaeologists are advising local people on how to recognise and record new sites when they are encountered, and local volunteers bring valuable knowledge of the region and the Alaskan wilderness to the research team.

© This image is credited to Rick Knecht, and is made available under Creative Commons BY