David Site

Upper Yukon River: A deep history in the Han traditional lands

The David Site a major ongoing research project that has become the longest intensively occupied site in the Upper Yukon River floodplain. This research project began in the mid-1990s as a routine survey of a Native allotment, a few miles downstream of Eagle, at a large bedrock outcrop named Calico Bluff.  

Calico Bluff is the source of an abundant amount of argillite rock, which was mined for millennia by early Alaska Natives to create stone tools and used in trade.  Calico argillite has been found in many archaeological sites throughout the surrounding area.  The long-term use of Calico Bluff by early Alaska Natives can be seen in the discovery of non-local stone tools, not just argillite rock tools.   These  non-local stones come from the Upper Koyukuk River and the coast of Southeast Alaska.

David Site Importance

During the David Site survey, the TCC Archaeology Program identified deeply buried archaeological materials including burnt animal bones, stone tools, and possible stone features. By studying these materials, it was found that the David Site was consistently used and reoccupied by people beginning at least 9,000 years ago, when the Upper Yukon River water level was much higher compared to today.

Calico Bluff provides a high lookout for prey scouting and observation of surrounding areas since it is a large rock formation.  Extensive use of Calico argillite tools discovered at the David Site is evidence of hunting and cooking of large mammals, such as moose and caribou.

The David Site has revealed that volcanic eruptions impacted the prehistoric lifeways in the forcing movement of early Alaska Native people on at least two occasions.  An eruption dated to 846-848 A.D. is believed to be one of the largest on earth in the past 10,000 years.  Additionally, a large-magnitude flood occurred around 5,000-6,000 years ago–possibly exceeding the 2009 Eagle area flood–which was revealed by the discovery of ice-rafted cobbles in the buried deposit.


Through an agreement with the new landowner, the large archaeological site was preserved through a conservation easement.  

Publications and Collaborations

TCC Archaeology Program research has collaborated with Community Field School programs.  Results at the David site have been presented at multiple professional conferences, including the annual meeting of the Alaskan Anthropological Association and the Canadian Archaeological Association.

A grant from the National Science Foundation partially supported the inclusion of Alaska youth in the research and work carried out at the David Site.