Nenana River Gorge

The Nenana River Gorge site is on a terrace that overlooks the Nenana River in the Nenana River Gorge, approximately 5 miles south of the modern town of Healy.  The site lies within the traditional territory of the Nenana-Toklat band of Lower Tanana Athabascans, close to a territorial divide with the Western Ahtna. The archaeological evidence at this site suggest that, in late Summer to early Fall, Athabascan groups hunted and fished near and camped at this site multiple times between 1430 to 1640. Caribou, sheep, moose, black bear, beaver, snowshoe hare, squirrel, ptarmigan, sharp-tailed grouse, and arctic grayling were butchered and processed. Occupants cooked some of the food at the site with boiling stones placed in pottery vessels, while other parts of the animals were taken to other sites. Plants and fungi (mushrooms) were also gathered nearby the site.

Excavators at Nenana River Gorge, 1970s (Photo by D. Plaskett).

Small projectile points, made from basalt, obsidian, and rhyolite, were used for the tips of arrows, scrapers for cleaning hides and bone, burins and gravers for incising bone and wood, and large choppers for breaking and cutting bone and wood. Small flecks of native copper were found in a hearth, which indicates it was annealed at the site and likely hammered into implements.

Cultural layer at Nenana River Gorge (Photo by D. Plaskett).

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