BARROW - Genetic scientists are collecting bones from an ancient site that's crumbling into the sea outside Barrow in an unprecedented effort to determine the relationship between those remains and today's North Slope residents.
As part of the study, modern Inupiat from North Slope communities will spit into cups this fall, giving experts a chance to analyze and compare their DNA with that of the ancient people from Nuvuk, said Dennis O'Rourke, anthropology professor at the University of Utah.
Nuvuk, or Point Barrow, sits at the northernmost spot in the United States, on a spit of sand that juts into the Arctic Ocean. Material from there shows the site was occupied between 750 and 1,200 years ago, O'Rourke said.
The DNA study, paid for by the National Science Foundation, could have bearing on efforts to repatriate skeletal remains and other artifacts collected from the region and held by museums, O'Rourke said.
It might also reveal more about the Thule, a culture that originated in Alaska and mastered bowhead hunting, allowing the people to spread to Canada and eventually Greenland.
Scientists will begin analyzing the genetic material this fall.