Two leaded bronze artifacts were recently discovered in northwestern Alaska, providing the first evidence that metals made their way to North America from Asia well before Europeans made contact. The research, produced by Purdue University, suggests a more complex past for the Arctic and Subarctic regions than some have proposed.
“This is not a surprise based on oral history and other archaeological finds, and it was just a matter of time before we had a good example of Eurasian metal that had been traded,” said H. Kory Cooper, an associate professor of anthropology, who led the artifacts’ metallurgical analysis. “We believe these smelted alloys were made somewhere in Eurasia and traded to Siberia and then traded across the Bering Strait to ancestral Inuits people, also known as Thule culture, in Alaska. Locally available metal in parts of the Arctic, such as native metal, copper and meteoritic and telluric iron were used by ancient Inuit people for tools and to sometimes indicate status. Two of the Cape Espenberg items that were found — a bead and a buckle — are heavily leaded bronze artifacts. Both are from a house at the site dating to the Late Prehistoric Period, around 1100-1300 AD, which is before sustained European contact in the late 18th century.”
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