This research was initiated to document climate and weather, as reflected in geoarchaeological data, and identify, if possible, any related changes in human behaviors at the Mink Island Site (XMK-030) on the Shelikof Strait, in Katmai National Park, Alaska. The goal was to identify local environmental changes through the analysis of sediment micromorphology, grain-size, and scanning electron microscopic (SEM) observation of sediment grain surface textures, and use the data to determine if local environmental changes were related to periods of human occupation, or associated with local or regional hiatuses. Research indicated that micromorphology, grain-size and SEM analyses are not the most appropriate analytical techniques to develop proxy climate data. This is not to say they are not applicable to archaeological analyses in general, or even in the GOA. They are however, ineffectual means by which to obtain data regarding specific environmental events, and cannot therefore, be used to extrapolate environmental drivers of human behavior. However, both micromorphology and grain size analysis are appropriate techniques to address the proposed research questions and both indicate that the two primary non-cultural formation processes on the site were aeolian and colluvial deposition. Analyses suggested that there were not widely divergent depositional regimes. Sediments within the site were likely deposited by aeolian and/or colluvial movement with secondary deposition during freezing temperatures likely during periods of winter abandonment. During occupation periods, sediments were likely derived from these same processes as well as material brought into the site by human occupants. The differences between abandonment and occupation levels are very distinct; humans clearly affected the means by which material accumulated in site deposits. Analysis suggests winter abandonment but beyond that, it is difficult to extrapolate additional seasonality data. Methods used for analysis of the Mink Island sediments were unable to provide specific information regarding environmental events at the site or within the broader GOA. However, analyses did provide an additional tool to identify the season of site abandonment. The data presented here also indicated the depositional processes that acted on the site, and allowed the identification of post-depositional processes that altered sediments after human abandonment.
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2012
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