Raven Bluff Site

BLM archaeologists discovered the Raven Bluff site in 2007 during a five-year survey of the Kivalina River drainage in northwest Alaska. Accessible only by helicopter, Raven Bluff is located approximately 100 miles north of Kotzebue, Alaska, and is situated on an eroded, limestone bluff between the edge of the De Long Mountains and a tundra plain extending to the Chukchi Sea. The surface of the site is sparsely vegetated with grasses, berries, mosses, and lichens. Dense riparian vegetation at the base of the bluff bounds the site on one side, while moist tussock tundra surrounds the rest of the bluff.

The site contains a near-continuous scatter of tool-making debris and stone artifacts across its partially unvegetated surface. These surface artifacts, and those found in the site’s relatively thick accumulation of soil, reflect the human use of this bluff dating back to the Late Pleistocene — nearly 13,000 years ago. In addition to stone artifacts, Raven Bluff contains an unusually well-preserved assemblage of animal bones, offering a unique opportunity to study the types and abundance of animals that people relied upon for subsistence during this time period. Further, this site offers what is perhaps North America’s earliest example of a northern fluted point, a type of spear point considered the first stone tool technology documented on the continent.

The BLM, working with the National Park Service and the University of Alaska Museum of the North, conducted several excavations at Raven Bluff from 2009 to 2012. Due to the site’s remote location, archaeologists transported gear and personnel each year by helicopter to establish a base camp that supported their research. Today archaeologists at the Museum of the North continue to analyze artifacts from Raven Bluff as they study how the first people crossed the Bering land bridge and established themselves in North America.

View the Raven Bluff Photo Album

Raven Bluff


Wow a Biface!

BLM Archaeologist Bill Hedman finds a bi-face (prehistoric stone tool) and explains about BLM's Archaeology program in the far north. Video by Frontier Scientists.

Time Travel in the Alaskan Arctic

BLM Archaeologist Bill Hedman talks about the Raven Bluff site and the partnerships the BLM has with teachers. Video by Frontier Scientists.