Nearly 500-Year Old Hunting Bow Found Submerged at Lake Clark National Park in Alaska

by Quentin Blount
Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Talk about a wild discovery — employees at Lake Clark National Park found a hunting bow that’s estimated to be close to 500 years old.

It’s true, Outsiders. Workers with the National Park Service (NPS) discovered a 54-inch hunting bow submerged in two feet of water at Lake Clark National Park in Alaska. Scientists believe that the cold temperature of the water and the lack of oxygen helped it survive out in the elements all these years. Speaking of which, the bow is estimated to have been first created sometime between 1506 and 1660.

The bow has since been sent to the Alaska regional office of the U.S. National Park Service for conservation. There, scientists, archeologists, and indigenous experts have been studying it to hopefully learn more about its origin and history.

According to park officials, the unlikely discovery was made on Dena’ina lands, an Athabascan indigenous people. Their ancestral lands span 41,000 square miles along the coast of the Cook Inlet. It includes the land where Anchorage, Alaska, is located today and it also includes a large part of Lake Clark National Park. As a matter of fact, it covers a large part of South-Central Alaska in general.

Hunting Bow Discovered at Lake Clark National Park Tells a Story

Despite this information, experts don’t believe the bow is of Dena’ina origin. Not only have they compared and contrasted the discovery with other bows from the same time period, but they have also communicated with Dena’ina Elders. They are now leaning toward it being of Yup’ik or Alutiq origin.

Now, you may be thinking, how would a Yup’ik or Alutiq bow end up on Dena’ina homelands? Well, anthropologists studying the artifact have since learned that indigenous peoples used to interact with each other all the time. That includes the Dena’ina and the Yup’ik, whose lands are in the coastal region of southwestern Alaska. They span from Bristol Bay along the Bering coast all the way up to Norton Sound.

“For the Dena’ina people, trading and sharing knowledge with their Yup’ik neighbors as well as other groups such as the Tanana, Tlingit, Ahtna, Deg Hit’an and coastal residents of Prince William Sound and Kodiak was common,” the NPS explained to Outdoor Life.

Meanwhile, experts are still trying to figure out all there is to know about this mysterious hunting bow. The NPS even brought in wood identification consultant Dr. Priscilla Morris to analyze it. She works for the U.S. Forest Service.

“After inspecting the artifact, I am leaning towards spruce,” Morris told the organization after inspecting the bow. “Birch is also a suspected species, but I did not see any anatomical characteristics that lead me to believe birch over spruce.”

As NPS archeologist Jason Rogers says, it isn’t every day that there is a discovery like this in Alaska.

“In Alaska, we just don’t have that kind of development so it’s very rare. It’s very rare for us to come across material like this.”