Researchers say they've discovered the first prehistoric cast bronze artifact ever found in Alaska and that it likely originated in East Asia.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder said the artifact resembling a buckle was found inside an ancient house dug into the side of a sand-covered beach ridge once occupied by Inupiat, a university release reported Monday.
The dig was conducted on Cape Espenberg on the Seward Peninsula.
The peninsula was part of the Bering Land Bridge linking Asia and North America during the last ice age and may have been used by early peoples as a corridor to migrate from Asia into the New World some 14,000 years ago.
The bronze object resembles a belt buckle and may have been used as part of a harness or horse ornament prior to its arrival in Alaska, the researchers said.
Since bronze metallurgy from Alaska is unknown, the artifact likely was produced in East Asia and reflects long-distance trade from production centers in either Korea, China, Manchuria or southern Siberia, CU-Boulder researcher Own Mason said.