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Early Arctic Prehistory.docx

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Western University
Anthropology 2230F/G
Lisa Hodgetts

Sept, 26, 2013 Early Arctic Prehistory Hunter Gatherer Mobility: -Lewis Binford was the first to lay out definitions on the way they move -He used the term residential mobility with foragers and logistical mobility with collectors but groups could be a mix of both and their place on the spectrum could shift -Residential mobility is when the whole community moves for resources where as logistical has base camps with task groups that come and go so they move camp less and use special purpose sites -Logistical groups have larger populations and are more common in areas where resources are seasonal and they use food storage and this affects dwellings because they are more invested in them and they are more permanent Dating: -This is more complex in the Arctic but C14 dating is still used and the decay is measured as it transforms into more stable C12 (decay happens at a fixed rate) -Radio carbon dates are measured in years BP (present being defined as 1950) and the +- after each date represents the error rate and we also use BCE -Dating in the Arctic is complicated because carbon cycles in marine systems are different than those on land because of the Marine Reservoir Effect that makes marine mammal bones look older than they really are so we can only date with terrestrial bones but this effect too has variables making things more difficult -We can’t really rely on floral remains either because they are so sparse so we use drift wood to a certain extent but this too is problematic because it could have floated for years before it was incorporated into sites -There are also issues with using stratigraphy because there is slow soil development with mixed deposits so there isn’t much divide between multi-component areas making their strata harder to define Climate Change – Culture Change: -We have to ask whether change in one leads to change in the other -We attribute many cultural changes to climate change but this is not always true because people are complex Reconstructing Climate: -We use climate proxys like ice cores that have strata where we can see dust and salt but this measures is a very broad scope -We can also use dendrochronology where tree rings indicate temperature and rainfall but this is only used on drift wood and in the southern Arctic where there are trees to date -We can also see how the tree line shifts indicating temperature changes and pond sediments show us the different plants that were in the area providing information on temperature and this is a more local record -Climate records have problems because there is always a complex environmental-cultural relationship and the climate proxys and archaeological record have different spatio-temporal resolution and we have to ask whether correlation equals causation Earliest Occupation: -This starts in the Beringia area because so much water was locked up in glaciers lowering the sea level enough that a land bridge formed between Siberia and Alaska and there were lots of Pleistocene megafauna -There is also early evidence in the Yukon and some islands -The people travelled down an ice free corridor or by hopping down the west coast -This evidence is very controversial but two sites in the Yukon look promising: Old Crow Flats: -The site has artifacts in deposits with bone that is perhaps modified by humans and there is no disagreement that the bones are old but it is the markings that are questioned -The site dates to 40,000-25,000 years ago but new dating of the evidence shows that the supposed tools only date to 6000 years old Blue Fish Caves: -The caves have obviously been inhabited by humans but the timing is questioned (ca. 17-14,000 BP but excavators are claiming 27,000) -There are stone microblades associated with megafauna remains that date to possibly 27,000 BP but again the association is questioned Sept, 26, 2013 Paleo-Arctic Tradition: -This period has the first definitive evidence and the people’s roots are still from Siberia and there are two early cultures that both rely on microblades and the period began in 10,000 BP -All the sites were located in glacial refugia -The Diuktai people lived on the tundra and were large game hunters and the Sumnagin moved south to the forests so they have more wood working tools and their descendants crossed and appeared in Alaska 10,000 BP -They are said to date from 22-10,000 BP and they used bifacial projectile points, microblades, blades, scrapers and burins -All Sumnagin sites are in glacial refugia and it dates from 10-6000 BP and their artifacts were diverse but the period ended 4000 BP and they used choppers, scrapers, and microblades -The Denali complex is in central Alaska and the western Yukon beginning around 10,000 BP or earlier and they had side notched or stemmed projectile points -The Anangula complex had year long dwellings which was very different and the Anangula Blade site in the Aleutian Islands was an early maritime adaptation (ca.8500-7000 BP) and there were no bifaces Northern Archaic Tradition: -These were a totally different group of people who somehow got south of the ice sheets ca. 12,000 YA before they headed back north and this group is very genetically distinct and were moving during a warming period (ca.5000 BP) and the forest was 300 km north of the modern tree line -This was a shorter lived period and they were very mobile and they did not use any microblades which indicates their separation from Siberian groups and there are interior and coastal sites with temporary seasonal camps -This period started by 6000 BP and ended by 4500 BP -The Palisades Complex (6000 BP) was in interior Alaska and they used a mix of blades but this could mean that there were intermixing periods or that sites were multi-occupational and they had asymmetrical projectile points -The Portage complex (6000-4500 BP) had leaf shaped projectile points -The Tuktu complex (6000 BP) was in interior Alaska and sites contain both types of points (typical of the Northern Archaic) and microblades (typical of the Paleo-Arctic) and this could point to cultural interaction or mixed deposits Small Arctic Tool Tradition: -This is also known as the Paleo-Eskimo Tradition but this is controversial because of its offensive nature and we are still not clear on their origin and they may have come from Siberia and moved to the east or coming from the Paleo-Arctic in Alaska -Its first manifestation is as Denbigh and the tradition is divided into the early phase and the late The Early Small Tool Tradition: -They were highly nomadic (residential mobility) and there is no evidence for boats but some of the places they occupied would be too hard to get to without them and they had pack dogs but not for sledding yet -They were primarily terrestrial hunters but they also hunted some sea mammals -The period is characterized by very small tools (hence the name of the tradition) -They used bows for shooting and drilling but this skill disappears later and we have to ask why an important skill was forgotten and they used small efficient microblades and they were able to get a lot of cutting edge per core and it is odd they were using adzes which are wood working tools when there is not much wood in the Arctic -Other characteristic tools were small end-blades and side-blades, burins, scrapers, small adze blades, and occasional large bifaces (knives) Denbigh Flint Complex: -It was located in Alaska along the coast and down river systems showing they were moving into the interior and it dates to ca. 5000-3000 BP -They used side and end scrapers and end side blades and harpoons with multiple components with foreshafts connecting the end blade to the shaft allowing it to detach and be reloaded -There have been found fire cracked pebbles that were heated in hearths and added to skin bags filled with water to make it boil so it could be used for cookin
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