Promoting archaeology in Alaska: a collaborative educational project

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Since the creation of the French archaeological mission in Alaska (mafAK) in 2013, it has studied the regular migratory movements between North-East Asia and the Americas via Beringia, a land bridge that linked Siberia to Alaska, from the Late Pleistocene (from 12 500 BCE), based on the many prehistoric sites of Interior Alaska.

The mission draws on close cooperation with several North American universities, including Adelphi University (New York) and the Center for the Study of the First Americans (CSFA) of Texas A&M University. Other French and North American universities contribute to this project through the participation of PhD candidates and professionals in research, such as Cornell University (New York), the University of Montreal (Quebec), and the French Jean Jaurès (Toulouse) and Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris) universities.

This cooperation with North American colleagues ensures the multi-disciplinary approach of the mission. From geophysical surveys through to dating methods, analysis of raw materials and palaeoparasites, these specialists enable a comprehensive, diverse approach to the life of prehistoric societies on the mission’s various sites.

Led by Yan-Axel Gomez Coutouly, mafAK has set itself a two-fold objective of promoting the archaeology of these regions, rarely studied in France, to French students, and promoting the French school of thought amongst North American students. Since 2013, a dozen students from the two countries have carried out field visits as part of week-long stays organized every year before the excavation campaign. Various activities have familiarized them with the local archaeology, such as visits to the permanent exhibitions and reserve collections of the University of Alaska Museum of the North (UAMN), Alaska’s largest store of archaeological collections; meeting leading specialists; and visits to prehistoric sites (Dry Creek, Carlo Creek, Broken Mammoth, Mead). Yan-Axel Gomez Coutouly also taught a course on the French school of prehistoric lithic analysis at the at Texas A&M Department of Anthropology in 2016.

Image Diaporama - Little Panguingue Creek seen from the (...)

Little Panguingue Creek seen from the opposite bank of the Nenana (Nenana Valley). Photo: mafAK, Yan Axel Gomez Coutouly.

Image Diaporama - Little Panguingue Creek site (Nenana Valley), (...)

Little Panguingue Creek site (Nenana Valley), June 2016 excavations. Photo: mafAK, Yan Axel Gomez Coutouly.

Image Diaporama - Visit of the Carlo Creek site with students. (...)

Visit of the Carlo Creek site with students. Photo: mafAK, Yan Axel Gomez Coutouly.

Image Diaporama - Visit of the Dry Creek site with students. (...)

Visit of the Dry Creek site with students. Photo: mafAK, Yan Axel Gomez Coutouly.

Image Diaporama - Visit of the Fairbanks Museum of the North (...)

Visit of the Fairbanks Museum of the North with students. Photo: mafAK, Yan Axel Gomez Coutouly.

Resources:

  • mafAK on Facebook : Mission archéologique française en Alaska, on Twitter : @mission_Alaska, and Viméo

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