Cape Nome, Alaska excavation records
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives [Contact Us]3260 South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19104-6324
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
In the spring of 1969, John R. Bockstoce, Arctic historian and archeologist, decided to excavate an apparently Norton site near Cape Nome under the advice of Dr. Froelich Rainey and Dr. Douglas Anderson. He hoped that this site would expand knowledge about regional adaptations of the Norton Culture and help gain knowledge about the decline of Norton Cultures. John Bockstoce had been traveling and working in the North since 1962. In preparation for his expedition to Cape Nome, he studied under Dr. Froelich Rainey at the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania for two and one-half years. Bockstoce was the Assistant to the Director during this time at the University Museum from 1970-1971. He also studied under Dr. Douglas Anderson at the Haffenreffer Museum of Brown University for half a year. By the time Bockstoce had embarked on this expedition, he had received a B.A. from Yale University and both a diploma in Ethnology and Prehistory and a B.Litt from the University of Oxford.
Cape Nome lies on the ecological boundary between the Bering Strait and the Norton Sound which made it an ideal location for researching how geography affected Norton habitations. It was estimated that the research should be conducted over a period of two summers each with a nine-week season due to weather constrictions. Bockstoce began test excavations the summer of 1969 and identified twelve houses for excavation. He started his official research on July 1, 1970 with a team of eight assistants. He also received help from native Eskimo, who were easily able to identify bone material, and was able to arrange for free labor supported by a government program. Excavations began on the western side of the site and moved eastward. Towards the end of the season, excavations were moved closer to the Norton Sound (House 16). These artifacts were distinct from previously found Norton artifacts. The expedition was forced to conclude on September 1, 1970.
The following spring, Bockstoce spent two months researching bowhead whale hunting at Point Hope to gain knowledge for the 1971 excavation of Point Hope that lasted from June 15th until August 25th. Initially, houses 203, 325, and 326 were excavated to gain information about the Birnick and Norton sub-phase B assemblage. The team found mixed results at these sights: Houses 203 and 325 contained artifacts that belong to the Cape Nome phase while House 326 contained twentieth century artifacts. Excavations were moved eastward and Houses 300 and 284 were found to contain artifacts that were congruent with other Norton sub-phase B finds. While excavating House 300, a layer of chert chips was noticed below the surface of the land. These chips were of the Denbigh Flint Complex culture which is estimated to have been active ca 2000 BC.
During the remainder of the summer, Bockstoce devoted his attention to observing the native birds and fauna and took time to map areas of the beach. The University of Oxford awarded Bockstoce his D. Phil in 1974 for his dissertation on Cape Nome. During his time at Oxford, he also worked as a visiting tutor in the Department of Ethnology and Prehistory. He spent the next twelve years of his life working as a curator of Ethnology and the New Bedford Whaling Museum. In 2000, Bockstoce was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Alaska for his large contribution to Arctic history. Over his years, Bockstoce has authored numerous articles, books, and monographs. John Bockstoce is currently the president of the Thalassa Corporation.
John Bockstoce was born August 10, 1944 and grew up in Hartford Connecticut. He is a leading expert in Far Northern History.
The entire collection of Cape Nome excavation records was donated by the author, John Bockstoce, to the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. The records consist of correspondence, field notes, drawings, photographs, the final thesis, and several larger oversized maps. Most of the handwritten parts of this collection were written during 1969-1971 while the preliminary surveys and excavations were taking place. However, Bockstoce did not finish his dissertation until 1974 and he was working on collections such as the plates for the final report up until this time. The field notes consist of field notebooks, artifact cards, artifact lists, and catalogued artifacts. There are a total of fifteen notebooks. Two of the notebooks are site surveys from 1970. In addition, there are three general notebooks from 1970 and nine general notebooks from 1971. There is also one notebook that dates 1974 and comments on the Ayasayuk Midden site. The notebooks are arranged in chronological order. The artifact cards were found to be organized by site number and then by object number within the site; this order has been preserved. Artifact cards are from the sites of 16C, 203, 271, 284, 300, 325, 326, 459, and PNH. Each card contains information about the site, date, excavator, object, location, association, and object number according to the museum. The artifact lists offer a consecutive record of artifacts by their museum object number. The folder of catalogued artifacts lists the object by site number, object number, artifact description, and page number. The drawings consist of two folders of house transects and locations, pottery drawings, and three folders of plates for the final report. The house transects and locations records give detailed descriptions of the coordinates of the houses, the overview of the sites, and geographical information about the land. The pottery drawings provide information about the object numbers of the artifacts and provide a basic outline of the artifacts. The folder of the plates for the final report contains prints that were used in his monograph and dissertation. They consist of maps of the area, transects, and charts that display cultural changes over time. Bockstoce used many of these in his final report.
Additional materials were received from the creator in March 2013. These consisted of surveys from the Southern Seward Peninsula (Salmon House 2) and the Glacial Lake areas.
Later in 2013, new drawings arrived from Dr. Bockstoce for the collection and in May 2014 a collection of mostly correspondence, surveys and reports were added. Most of the correspondence is with the United States Department of the Interior, various government agencies in Alaska, the University of Alaska and several native tribes of the region.
- Archaeological surveying
- Archaeology--Aerial photography in archaeology
- Archaeology--Architecture, ancient
- Ethnology--Indigenous peoples
- Plans and drawings
- University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Kelly
- Finding Aid Date
2 small notebooks
1 hardback book
Transects and objects.
4 small color prints