Largest shipment of Yup’ik artifacts in the world arrives in Quinhagak

At the dig site, PhD student Jonathan Lim takes a short break. Lim, who is from Malaysia, is one of many archeologists from around the world who worked in Nunalleq. Photo taken August 2017. (Photo by Teresa Cotsirilos / KYUK)

The world’s largest collection of Yup’ik artifacts has finally arrived home in Quinhagak on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta coast. After shipping delays in Europe, the Nunalleq artifacts have returned in time for the community’s museum opening next week.

Listen now

More than 60,000 artifacts arrived in carefully packaged crates on Tuesday. The items date from the 1670’s during the Bow and Arrow Wars, remembered still today in Yup’ik oral history. They were shipped from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland where they’ve been cleaned and preserved.

Lead archaeologist Rick Knecht, teaches at Aberdeen. Over the past decade, he’s led a team of local and international archaeologists to unearth the ancient items. The Quinhagak Native Village Corporation reached out to Knecht after the artifacts began appearing on the coastal shore in 2009. As masks, carvings, baskets and more have been revealed, the discoveries have ignited a renaissance of craft making in the community. The former elementary school has been converted into a preservation laboratory, as well as a cultural center and museum.

On August 11, Quinhagak will celebrate the museum’s opening, the community’s long history, and its nearly a decade of hard work. And will do so with the complete Nunalleq collection on display.