Saturday, May 18, 2013
Archeologist Studies Russian Influence in Modern Alaska
Even though they're separated by miles of ocean hundreds of feet deep, the cultural connection runs even deeper.
Alaska state archeologist Dave McMahan spends his days uncovering how other people lived theirs.
"The books and the archival records tell us about important events and important people,” McMahan said. “They don't tell us about the day-to-day life of the people."
Now, nearly 150 years after the purchase of Alaska from Russua, McMahan is working to decipher archeological clues and find out exactly what role Russian culture still plays in Alaskan life.
"These are examples of the kind of things that would tell a story of day-to-day life in Russian America,” McMahan said, examining a set of corroding metal sewing thimbles in his midtown lab.
His work takes him across Alaska and beyond.
Just this summer, he completed his seventh research trip to Russia where he worked with Russian museum curators and archeologists to share information and collaborate on research.
"I think that was really helpful in giving folks a handle on some of the things they had in their collections, where they didn't quite know what it was,” McMahan said.
These artifacts are hundreds of years old, but he said the curiosity about Russian-American culture is still alive.
"There's a lot of interest, especially in Alaska communities with strong Russian roots, like Sitka,” McMahan said.
Even though miles of ocean hundreds of feet deep separate Russia and Alaska, McMahon said the cultural connection runs even deeper.