Thousands of artifacts unearthed during GCI high-speed data project in Kotzebue

November 18, 2016

Modern technology connects Alaskans to 800-year-old artifacts

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – Crews laying fiber for Alaska’s next-generation, high-speed network in rural Alaska unearthed 800-year-old Thule artifacts that are now being stored at Alaska’s Museum of the North and are part of a website launched this fall.

In the summer of 2013, a Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation (KIC) construction crew laying fiber as part of GCI’s Terrestrial for Every Rural Region in Alaska (TERRA) project unearthed the artifacts near a beach in Kotzebue. The discovery prompted the crew to halt construction while GCI consulted archaeologists, KIC and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to negotiate a new route for the fiber. Under a Memorandum of Agreement, the crew resumed construction in 2015 at a significantly reduced pace with an on-site archaeologist evaluating the contents of every bucket of soil.

By the time the project was completed in September 2015, more than 4,000 artifacts and animal bones were uncovered, including ivory combs, subsistence tools and spears that represent the most advanced technologies in the coastal area during the time of their use. Based on artifact analysis and carbon (14C) dating, the tested materials dated back to A.D. 1210-1275 and are associated with the Thule culture, the ancestors of modern Inuit culture. The artifacts are now being archived at the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks for future research.

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Since these artifacts were unearthed, GCI teams have visited Kotzebue on several occasions to consult with partners in the region for the design of an interactive, educational website that provides the community with an opportunity to connect with its Alaska ancestors on a whole new level. The website is currently the only avenue for viewing the artifacts. It is a chance for the public to learn about Alaska’s coastal cultures that have thrived in the area for thousands of years. The website will be maintained by GCI in the coming years and includes educational materials, a photo gallery of the artifacts, a presentation video and an overview of the findings.

The Kotzebue Artifacts website was designed by GCI in collaboration with KIC, BLM, Native Village of Kotzebue, National Park Service, State Historic Preservation Office and Kotzebue Middle High School for the purpose of creating educational resources and a catalogue for future research. To view a sample of the artifacts and access educational materials, visit Learn more about GCI’s TERRA project at

“We were thrilled to work with the tribe and the local community to develop a project that keeps these artifacts safe for generations to come,” said Jenifer Nelson, GCI’s rural marketing manager. “We wanted to find a way to create a lasting connection for members of the community so that this generation and future generations can access these amazing artifacts and continue to learn from the discovery. It seems fitting to use modern tools and technology to highlight the ingenuity of ancient technology.”

About GCI

GCI delivers communication and technology services in the consumer and business markets. Headquartered in Alaska with additional locations in the U.S., GCI has delivered services for more than 35 years to some of the most remote communities and in some of the most challenging conditions in North America. Learn more about GCI at

Media contact:

Heather Handyside, GCI