Many portrayals of archaeology in popular culture include travelling to remote locations in order to recover artifacts regarded as “treasure”, usually under dramatic and somewhat harrowing circumstances. For Greg Hare, the Yukon Territory’s site assessment archaeologist, ice patches are the equivalent of the treasure filled tombs in an Indiana Jones film.
Ice Patch Archaeology began in the late 1990s through the Yukon Ice Patch Project (Hare 2011: 2). Ice patches are accumulated snow and ice from previous winters that does not melt in the summer. They are found in alpine regions around the world, including the southern Yukon. Unlike glaciers, they do not flow downhill or move over time (except for seasonal melting along the perimeter). When the Yukon Ice Patch project began, changing temperatures were resulting in massive melting of these ice patches, which revealed many archaeological artifacts that had previously been encased in the ice. Due to the extremely dry and cold conditions, as well as the sedentary state of the ice, these artifacts are remarkably well preserved and can include sinew, hide, and feathers on objects up to 9,000 years old (Hare 2011: 22). Read more