• Prehistoric toolstone procurement and land use in the Tangle Lakes Region, central Alaska

      Lawler, Brooks A.; Potter, Ben A.; Reuther, Joshua D.; Newberry, Rainer; Hemphill, Brian (2019-05)
      This project explores prehistoric human mobility and landscape use in the Tangle Lakes region, central Alaska through analyses of toolstone procurement and manufacture conditioned by site function. Early Holocene Denali and middle Holocene Northern Archaic traditions are hypothesized to have different tool typologies, subsistence economies, and land use strategies. However, few large, systematic studies of toolstone procurement and use have been conducted. At a methodological level, archaeologists have struggled to quantitatively source non-igneous cryptocrystalline toolstone which often makes up the largest proportion of archaeological lithic assemblages. These problems were addressed by developing rigorous chemical methods for statistically assigning lithic from Tangle Lakes assemblages to (a) two known local toolstone quarries, (b) materials within the Tangle Lakes region, and (c) non-local materials. Lithic technological and geospatial analyses were used to evaluate toolstone procurement, manufacture, and use within sites. Lithic samples from four archaeological components located at different distances from their nearest known quarry sources were used to address the research problems. The archaeological samples were derived from a Denali complex hunting site (Whitmore Ridge Component 1) and three Northern Archaic assemblages: a residential site (XMH-35), a tool production site (Landmark Gap Trail) and a hunting camp (Whitmore Ridge Component 2). Chemical results indicate that cryptocrystalline material in Tangle Lakes assemblages can be statistically assigned to primary sources locations, and visual sourcing of this material is entirely unreliable. Lithic analytical results indicate that despite slight changes in mobility strategies for Denali and Northern Archaic populations, site function is the strongest conditioning factor for material selection and procurement strategies local to the Tangle Lakes region. Thus, this research provides (a) best practice methods for sourcing abundance cryptocrystalline material that has been precluded from most lithic sourcing studies, and (b) the data necessary to incorporate technological organization strategies of Tangle Lakes populations into the broader context of Denali and Northern Archaic behavioral patterns in Alaska.