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The Buckle That Came In From The Cold July 14, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval , trackback

***Dedicated to Mike Z who sent this one in***

Beach has made it his business to put up here records of objects from the past that end up hundreds or better still thousands of miles away from where they should have been found. Recent examples have included Roman glass beads in, ahem, Japan and Roma (gypsy) DNA in eleventh century England. Now Mike has kindly sent in this very exciting find from, of all places, Alaska, from the extraordinary Cape Espenberg excavations in the Bering Straits.

In August 2011 archaeologists digging through the remains of a thousand-year-old Eskimo settlement came across a buckle (pictured). True, normally finding a buckle at a ‘medieval’ site would not give cause for the slightest concern. But this buckle had been made in a cast, a technology that it is universally agreed that Eskimos at this date did not have access to. There was also a piece of leather attached that dated back to about 600 AD, perhaps four centuries before the levels of stratification where it was found. It goes without saying that the buckle could be even older.

So how did this object get there? Well, the most obvious solution is that it was traded up through Asia (its place of origin is still unknown) and that it eventually found its way across the Bering Straits. As so often with anomalous wrong-place objects note the time discrepancy. This was four hundred years old (at least) when it was being used in the settlement. Another possibility is that it came across the straits some fifteen hundred years ago with, according to some ethnologists, the groups of sub-Arctic peoples who become the Eskimos.

As to its purpose. It could have been used to hold something, but the suggestion of one of the excavators that it was tied to a Shaman’s dress is more attractive: whether it is right or not is another question. In other words, this was a very strange object that no one knew what the hell to do with.

Beach has previously written on the surprisingly late discovery of America and he has pointed out how porous the arctic routes to America were on both sides. It is also worth reflecting for a moment on that other fascinating non Americanfind from the other side of the continent, the Maine Penny. Luckily, in this case the anomalous object was found by professionals and no one has questioned whether it is genuine or not.

Any other wrong place objects? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com