Ancient Unangam mask found on Amaknak Island

Posted: Thursday, August 02, 2007

DUTCH HARBOR - Archaeologists excavating on Amaknak Island have discovered what may be the oldest Unangam whalebone mask.

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Shawna Rider, who is working with four other archaeologists from Anchorage-based Cultural Resource Consultants LLC, found the two pieces of the broken mask at the Amaknak Bridge site on July 2.

"We haven't radiocarbon-dated the mask yet, although we do have an associated charcoal sample, but from its location in the site, I'd guess that it is possibly 3,000 years old," said Michael Yarborough, director of the field crew.

Previous C-14 dates from the site place its occupation between about 2,500 and 3,500 years ago.

Whalebone masks have been found at other, more recent sites on Amaknak Island. A stylistically similar mask from Izembek Lagoon, on the Alaska Peninsula near Cold Bay, is about 1,000 years old.

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