Nabesna Glacier Wrangell-St.Elias
The Nabesna Glacier, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

From the tragedy of ancient glaciers disappearing, a new insight into the ancient is gained. Drastic annual temperature increases are contributing to benchmark discoveries of artifacts that have been sheltered in ice for thousands of years. One can view some of these precious objects and hear UNM Professor of Anthropology James Dixon give his account of the discoveries he made at “Archeology on Ice” on Friday, Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology when the new exhibit opens. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Ahtna tribal member Albert Craig Jr., James Dixon and Glaciologist William Harrison (UAF).

In this 10-year long project, Dixon turns his attention to the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, home to the longest interior glacier valley on Earth.

There, in Alaska, he obtained rare artifacts of wood, antler and other materials that, would have decayed had they not been frozen. The items that were found provide a glimpse into a time before non-natives had reached this region of Alaskan wilderness.

The discovery of rare artifacts of wood and antler are seldom preserved in other types of archeological sites are on display in the exhibition.

Arrowhead and copper point found at the Bonanza Ice Patch. Radiocarbon dating indicates the arrow was made about A.D. 1850, shortly before non-Native people came to the upper Copper and Nebesna River areas.

Artifacts include arrows, spear points and birch bark baskets. Arrows were made from wooden staves split from carefully selected white spruce that was then tapered, shaped and notched.

Most of the artifacts featured in the exhibit were found at small glaciers called “ice patches.” The discoveries reveal that people often used the feathers from birds of prey, such as golden eagle, to make the arrows fly straight and tipped their arrows with finely carved barbed arrowheads carved from antler.

For more information, visit: Maxwell Museum of Anthropology or contact Mary Beth Hermans at (505) 277-1400 or email,