Prehistoric Archaeology of the Fortymile River Drainage

In 2015, the Fairbanks District Office of the Bureau of Land Management and the University of Alaska Museum of the North jointly began surveying the main tributaries of the Fortymile River drainage that lies ~290 km (180 mi) east of Fairbanks, Alaska. The goal of this multi-year project is to document prehistoric archaeological sites and build a cultural record for the under surveyed area.

The main stem of the Fortymile River is 64 km (40 mi) long and is one of the larger tributaries of the upper Yukon River. Main tributaries include the North, South, and Middle forks, the Mosquito Fork, and the Dennison Fork. Altogether, the main tributaries of the Fortymile drainage measure 800 river kilometers (500 mi) and drain roughly 14,500 km² (3.6 million ac²) of eastern interior Alaska.

To date, this project has recorded 63 previously unknown archaeological sites and reinvestigated several previously documented sites. Sites include small ephemeral lithic scatters, cache features, to substantial winter camps. A new lithc raw material source has been documented during this project, with two others possibly identified. Moreover, this study has  added 27 radiocarbon dates to the area, firmly establishing a chronological record spanning the mid-Holocene through contact period (~6400-1 cal BP). 

Research highlights of this project may be found in the following journal report:

2018     Coffman, Sam, Robin O. Mills, and Scott Shirar. Recent Archaeological Survey along the Middle Fork of the Fortymile River, Alaska. Alaska Journal of Anthropology 16(1):95-106

Poster presented at the 44th Alaska Anthropological Association Annual Meeting: Archaeological Survey along the Mosquito Fork of the Fortymile River, Eastern Interior Alaska. Sam Coffman and Steve Lanford. March 2017.

Funding: National Conservation Lands Program and the Bureau of Land Management

Excavations at the Solstice Site, a 1600 year old site in the Fortymile area.