The Alaskan Expedition

By: F. de Laguna

Originally Published in 1933

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AN unexpected discovery of great interest was made in Alaska this summer by Miss Frederica de Laguna, of the Museum staff, and Dr. Kaj Birket-Smith of the National Museum of Denmark. The find consisted of a large cave, containing many cultural remains, near Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound. Included among these were a number of fragments of dug-out canoes about twelve feet long, two feet wide, and two feet deep. The party had been told that such canoes were made by the Eskimo of the region, but their actual existence and appearance had been a matter for conjecture. This site is probably the northernmost on this continent at which dug-out canoes have been found.

Several burials were found in the cave; the bodies had been wrapped in mats and put in coffins. These coffins were simply holes in the ground lined with planks and covered each by a large plank. It was possible to remove one of the bodies lying on the bottom of its grave box, then to build a box for it out of the best preserved planks remaining, and so ship it to the Museum. This particular skeleton was practically mummified, its face being preserved.

The discovery of the cave and the objects in it admirably supplements the other finds of the excavators, for there is just enough duplication of stone and bone material to show that it belongs to the same culture that was found near Cordova, Alaska, while all the rest consisted either of wood or of grass mats, things that do not ordinarily have any chance of survival. Some of the stone objects found on the surface of the cave were of the same type as those excavated, testifying to the antiquity of the surface material, though it is probable that the dug-out canoes are of comparatively more recent date, since it is difficult to imagine that wood could remain so well preserved over a period of a hundred and fifty years or more.

Cite This Article

Laguna, F. de. "The Alaskan Expedition." Museum Bulletin IV, no. 5 (October, 1933): 134-135. Accessed July 15, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/bulletin/1233/


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