Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: December 8th, 2022

Free event to be offered in-person, virtually

(Video of Weir)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a lecture on Tuesday to delve more deeply into the discovery of an ancient, submerged stone weir, which was found near Prince of Wales Island this year through a partnership between a team of scientists and SHI.

In her lecture, Our Submerged Past: The Importance of a Submerged Fish Weir in Shakan Bay, underwater archaeologist Dr. Kelly Monteleone will expound upon the research team’s significant find, which is the oldest stone weir ever found in the world. The trap is estimated to date to at least 11,100 years ago.

Southeast Alaska, specifically the continental shelf and islands on the west side of Prince of Wales Island, had a drastic sea-level rise at the end of the Last Pleistocene/Early Holocene. There was up to 176 m of sea-level rise, from -165 m to 11 m, in approximately 7,000 years, which is an enormous change in a relatively short time, Monteleone wrote.

The stone fish weir confirmed on the seafloor at approximately 52 m and its age demonstrate that early land-use locations (archaeological sites) are preserved on the continental shelf. The find supports the hypothesis that people migrated to the Americas along the coast—a theory supported by ancient Tlingit oral histories—instead of a land bridge across the Bering Strait.

“The submerged coastline would have been part of the route for early peoples journeying to the Americas at the end of the last glacial period,” Monteleone wrote.

The structure was first found in 2010 by use of side-scan sonar technology, which detects and images objects on the seafloor. Scientists suspected the vague image to be that of a stone weir, but mostly due to funding constraints, the team was not able to confirm their hypothesis through underwater exploration until earlier this year.

“The confirmation of this side-scan sonar feature can provide confirmation of other side-scan anomalies that are thought to be stone weir structures,” she wrote.

Monteleone is an underwater archaeologist, a data analyst at Mount Royal University’s Registrar’s Office, and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Calgary.

She completed her Ph.D. in anthropology in 2013 from the University of New Mexico and is actively seeking an assistant professorship in Canada. She has an MSc in maritime archaeology from the University of Southampton, UK, and a Hrs. BSc in archaeology from the University of Calgary.

Her research focuses on providing the tools and expertise to help locate submerged archaeological sites on the continental shelf of Southeast Alaska and assisting the local communities in learning more about their ancestors. Monteleone is active with Sigma Xi: the international honor science society, where she is the associate director for the Canada/International constituency.

The lecture is scheduled for 12 pm, Tuesday, Dec. 13, in Shuká Hit within SHI’s Walter Soboleff Building, 105 S. Seward St. in Juneau. The lectures will be livestreamed and posted on SHI’s YouTube channel.

Funding provided by NOAA Ocean Exploration (NA21OAR0110198).  

Research Team

This project brings together a highly experienced team from around North America organized by Sunfish Inc. and Sealaska Heritage Institute. The team includes: Dr. Kristof Richmond (PI), Chief Technology Officer at Sunfish Inc.; Dr. Kelly Monteleone (co-PI), an archaeologist at the University of Calgary; Dr. Rosita Worl, an anthropologist from Sealaska Heritage Institute; Dr. Vera Pospelova, who specializes in dinoflagellate Cyst analysis from the University of Minnesota; Dr. Nancy Bigelow, who specializes in microfossil and pollen analysis from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Jill Heinerth, the lead diver and Education/Outreach specialist; Vickie Siegel, the field operations manager for Sunfish; and additional Sunfish team members. The project will hire local residents to participate, and tribal representation will be coordinated through Sealaska Heritage Institute. SHI also plans to bring interns majoring in sciences. Additionally, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Geological Survey, and Tongass National Forest Service representatives will continue to participate throughout the project.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Communications and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,; Dr. Kelly Monteleone (co-PI), archaeologist at the University of Calgary, 403-478-3833 (note this is a Canadian number, so long-distance charges will apply),

Caption: Image from a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) of semi-circular stacked stones on the seafloor, part of a larger weir complex. Photo and video by Dr. Kelly Monteleone (co-PI), an archaeologist at the University of Calgary, courtesy of Our Submerged Past Project. Note: news outlets are welcome to use this image and footage for coverage of this story. For a higher-resolution photo, contact

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