Cape Krusenstern National Monument

History

History & Culture

Cape Krusenstern National Monument invites you to look into the past. The Monument was established to protect a series of more than 100 beach ridges preserving 5,000 years of Inupiaq Eskimo culture in the Arctic.

While Congress specifically set aside the monument for these archeological treasures, Cape Krusenstern is a place where modern Inupiat continue to live and practice a subsistence lifestyle. Berry picking, greens gathering, seal and caribou hunting, and fishing are important subsistence activities taking place within the park today.

The beach ridge complex at Cape Krusenstern National Monument is the focus of a multi-year interdisciplinary research project. Scientists seek to definitively identify, map, test, and document cultural resources at the complex.

The Cultural Resource program at the Monument documents people in the parks, past and present, and serves to preserve places with unique history.

National Historic Landmarks

Alaska’s nationally designated landmarks span the state from Kake, in Southeast Alaska, to the Birnirk site in Barrow, the northernmost community in Alaska. They range from Eagle on the Canadian border to Attu at the western end of the Aleutian Island chain. Seventeen landmarks are considered to be archeological, with most dating back to pre-European times. There are also 32 historic landmarks, which commemorate historic themes since the landing of Vitus Bering on Alaskan shores in 1741. Altogether these landmarks tell the story of roughly 11,000 years of Alaskan history.

Cape Krusenstern Archeological District - Designated November 7, 1973

Cape Krusenstern Archeological District contains the cultural remains of peoples who have inhabited these beaches for 5,000 or more years. Adjacent to the ridges on unglaciated uplands in the Igichuk Hills are surface deposits that extend the record backward to the time of the end of the Pleistocene. The beach ridges of Cape Krusenstern provide a broad, horizontal stratigraphy which includes virtually all phases of cultural history known in northwest Alaska.

Collections

The museum collection of Cape Krusenstern National Monument contains a range of natural history specimens and cultural artifacts representing several disciplines and specialties such as biology, archeology, ethnology, history and archives.

Although referred to as a "museum collection," a more accurate description would be "research collection," as the vast majority of the cataloged objects are specimens resulting from scientific studies. The archives are largely administrative records.

As of 2005, items in the collection include -

Archeological artifacts: 1,065

Historical items: 5

Archival items: 9,110

Biological specimens: 366

Total items: 10,546

Archeologist J.L. Giddings

J. Louis Giddings dedicated his professional life to understanding the people and the prehistory of Northwest Alaska. During a quarter-century of prolific archeological fieldwork (1939 to 1964) Giddings made discoveries that greatly changed prevailing views on the antiquity and complexity of Arctic cultures. Nowhere is his legacy more evident than in the vast expanse of Cape Krusenstern National Monument, designated in 1978, primarily to protect and interpret its incredible archeological resources. 

In the mid-1950s, Giddings, and his Inupiaq boatman, Almond Downey, discovered a long sequence of ancient beach ridges at Cape Krusternstern. Preserved on the ridges was evidence of the sweep of Arctic prehistory from roughly 5,000 years ago up through historic times. On the bluffs behind the beach ridges are older sites, possibly dating to 9,000 years ago. The archeological staff of Western Arctic National Parklands continue the scientific research and interpretation of the prehistory of Cape Krusenstern begun almost 50 years ago by Giddings