Mesa Site

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Lying atop a mesa-like rock outcrop, the location of the site is nothing less than breathtaking. From 200 feet up, ancient hunters had a 360-degree vantage point for spotting game such as bison and, possibly, mammoths. Until the site was discovered, archaeologists generally accounted for the early cultures in the lower 48 as the products of a single migration out of Asia. But the distinctiveness of the stone points found here — and at the Putu site 160 miles to the east — indicate that perhaps there were several migrations (Mesa artifacts range in date from 9,700 to 11,700 years old). Early Alaska may have been occupied by different cultures who spoke different languages, and had distinct ways of making tools.

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Official visitor map of Gates Of The Arctic National Park & Preserve (NP & PRES) in Alaska. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).Gates of the Arctic - Visitor Map

Official visitor map of Gates Of The Arctic National Park & Preserve (NP & PRES) in Alaska. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).

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Brochure of Alaska's Mesa Site: Ancient Hunting Lookout in northern Alaska. Published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).Mesa Site - Ancient Hunting Lookout

Brochure of Alaska's Mesa Site: Ancient Hunting Lookout in northern Alaska. Published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Mesa Site https://www.blm.gov/programs/cultural-heritage-and-paleontology/archaeology/what-we-manage/alaska/mesa-site Lying atop a mesa-like rock outcrop, the location of the site is nothing less than breathtaking. From 200 feet up, ancient hunters had a 360-degree vantage point for spotting game such as bison and, possibly, mammoths. Until the site was discovered, archaeologists generally accounted for the early cultures in the lower 48 as the products of a single migration out of Asia. But the distinctiveness of the stone points found here — and at the Putu site 160 miles to the east — indicate that perhaps there were several migrations (Mesa artifacts range in date from 9,700 to 11,700 years old). Early Alaska may have been occupied by different cultures who spoke different languages, and had distinct ways of making tools.
Other Types of Artifacts Help Us Preserve and Protect the Past! Also found at the Mesa Site are various large stones from the nearby creek that were used as hammers or anvils. Other stones were brought in from greater distances, and their use at the site is unknown. These include 11 quartz crystals not otherwise found naturally nearby. We can only speculate that they might have had some type of religious or other cultural use. All archaeological sites of Alaska are important for the scientific information they contain about our state’s fascinating past. If you see historic or archaeological remains, please don’t disturb them. Enjoy looking at them and taking photographs, but leave them intact for future generations. If possible, please report their location to the nearest state or federal land manager. With your help, we can protect Alaska’s past for the future! Other Cultures at the Mesa Site During the first few years of excavation, only Paleoindian style artifacts like those described above were found at the mesa. This led to the presumption that only the ancient Paleoindians had used the site. But later, in a few locations away from the Paleoindian activity areas, very different styles of artifacts were found. These were made by a much more recent cultural group that briefly utilized the site about 3,500 years ago. These people based their stone tool industry around small stone flakes, called “microblades,” which they inserted into wooden or bone handles and shafts for use as cutting and piercing implements. These microblades, flaked off of specially prepared rock cores, also may have been used for engraving and other special culturally distinct purposes. Microbladebased cultures were common throughout northern and interior Alaska during this time. While Paleoindians occupied the North Slope, a microblade-producing culture closely related to those in Siberia was present in interior Alaska, primarily in the Nenana and Tanana valleys. It is unknown if the Mesa people and the Nenana people with apparently different cultures were closely related to each other. There is no evidence how (or if) they may have interacted. Equally unresolved are whether they dressed alike, shared similar beliefs, or spoke the same language. Future archaeological discoveries may help answer such mysteries. Mesa Site Ancient Hunting Lookout Northern Alaska Mesa Site biface tool over 11,700 years old. Learn More About It For further information about the Mesa Site, including a downloadable 82-page report entitled “The Mesa Site: Paleoindians above the Arctic Circle,” by Michael Kunz, Michael Bever, and Constance Adkins (originally published April 2003 as BLM Alaska Open File Report 86) visit: http://www.blm.gov/alaska/archaeology/mesa-site For printed copies of Mesa Site information contact: Fairbanks District Office 222 University Ave. Fairbanks, Alaska 99709 907-474-2200 Cover photo: Excavator working at the Mesa archaeological site in the Central Arctic Management Area Wilderness Study Area. Mesa archaeological site. U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management BLM/AK/Gl-04/010+8100+930 REV 2020 The Mesa Site Importance and Location The Mesa Site is a scientifically important ancient archaeological site located on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management on the northern edge of the Brooks Range in arctic Alaska. The site lies on a ridge nearly 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 160 miles from the nearest road. Between roughly 11,700 and 13,600 years ago, hunters used this site, located atop a mesa-like ridge, as a lookout to spot game. What they left behind, including distinctive stone tools and the remnants of ancient campfires, is among the oldest evidence of human presence in the Western Hemisphere. From discoveries made at the Mesa Site, archaeologists have learned how some of the very first Alaskans lived. Intriguing Connections Elsewhere Many of the stone tools found at the Mesa Site are of the same style and type as those found in the ancient Paleoindian sites on the North American High Plains. Artifacts from those sites suggest an economy based primarily on hunting Ice Age big game animals. Finding artifacts like these in Alaska has very important implications. It suggests that the “Mesa Paleoindian people” also may have relied on late Ice Age animals, including now extinct bison, mammoth, and horse. It also suggests a close cultural relationship between inhabitants of these two diverse geographic regions. Exactly what such a relationship might mean is a fascinating mystery tied to when and how the first people came into the Western Hemisphere. How Was the Mesa Site Found? The Mesa Site was discovered in 1978 by archaeologists working for the Bureau of Land Management. They were looking for remains of past human use of the foothills region of the North Slope in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, so that such places could be protected during future oil and gas exploration acti

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