International Scientific Conference "Archeology of the Arctic"
November 19-23, 2017

Archaeological heritage of the “Russian Arctic” National park.

Ermolov E.O.

Federal state budget institution «Russian Arctic» national park, Arkhangelsk





Historically the Franz Josef Land archipelago and the northern part of the the Severny Island in the north of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, which form the territory of the "Russian Arctic" national park, have been the most actively developed Arctic islands territories in our country. The long and rich in events history of these territories' discovery, study, and colonization left a significant material legacy in the form of the hunters' camps, research expeditions stations, polar outposts, defense facilities of the time of the Great Patriotic War, memorial and navigation signs, as well as the unique pieces of machines and equipment. All in all there are 92 historical and cultural heritage objects in the territory of the two archipelagos.

The reason for a relatively good preservation of the historical objects located in the national park territory was the difficulty of access to the islands. As a result only a rather limited number of people could visit those remote areas or in any way interfere with the historical sites preservation. Another important factor was the cold climate which contributed to the good preservation of the organic materials.  Because of the insignificant human interference and the lack of vegetation no cultural level was formed in the high latitude Arctic regions. All things which were ever brought to the islands by men stayed there and remained on the surface. However, the study of the sites, their description and the selective collection of surface finds should follow the classical archaeological research methodology. 

The oldest dated historical site in the national park territory was the winter camp of the Dutch Willem Barentsz expedition in the  Ledyanaya Gavan (Ice Haven) on Novaya Zemlya island (1596-1597). Franz Josef Land was discovered relatively late - only in 1873, however before World War I the archipelago was visited by 11 expeditions from six countries which left behind 31 historical object: base camps, food depots, intermediary camps and memorial signs.

So far the national park specialists have completed reconnaissance archaeological examination of the Frederick Jackson expedition base on Cape Flora, Northbrook Island (1894-1897), and the secret German weather station on the Alexander Land island (1943-1944) The study of the remains of the American Evelyn Baldwin expedition base on Alger Island (1901-1902) must be given the highest priority. Because of the coastline erosion the site located near the water edge may soon be destroyed by the sea. What makes this site different from most other sites in the area is the 40 cm thick layer of sand cover. The camp's structures and the numerous items scattered around them arrest the sand driven by the wind across the open coastal territory. This means that in this case a full scale archaeological excavation is required.

The historical and cultural heritage of the "Russian Arctic" national park has a significant research potential and requires further study. 

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