The world’s largest collection of Yup’ik artifacts has finally returned home to Quinhagak on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta coast. After shipping delays in Europe, the Nunalleq artifacts have returned in time for the community’s museum opening next week.
More than 60,000 artifacts arrived in carefully packaged crates on Tuesday. The items date from the 1670’s during the Bow and Arrow Wars, remembered still today in Yup’ik oral history. They were shipped from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland where they’ve been cleaned and preserved.
Lead archeologist Rick Knecht teaches at Aberdeen. Over the past decade he’s led a team of local and international archeologists to unearth the ancient items. The Quinhagak Native Village Corporation reached out to Knecht after the artifacts began appearing on the coastal shore in 2009. As masks, carvings, baskets, and more have been revealed, the discoveries have ignited a renaissance of craft making in the community. The former elementary school has been converted into a preservation laboratory, as well as a cultural center and museum.
Saturday, August 11, Quinhagak will celebrate the museum’s opening, the community’s long history, and its nearly decade of hard archeological work. And it will do so with the complete Nunalleq collection on display.