• Faunal and lithic analyses from the Matcharak Peninsula site (AMR-00196) northern archaic context: Lake Matcharak, Central Brooks Range, Alaska

      Keeney, Joseph W.; Potter, Ben; Clark, Jamie; Reuther, Josh; Rasic, Jeff (2019-05)
      This thesis focuses on the Matcharak Peninsula site (AMR-00196 or MPS), located on the east side of Lake Matcharak in the upper Noatak River valley of Alaska's central Brooks Range. The MPS contains a substantial and well-preserved collection of faunal remains dating to between 6190±35 and 3780±35 14C years BP, along with side-notched projectile points and microblade technology. Radiometric dating and stone tools attribute the collection to the Northern Archaic tradition, making MPS unique for yielding the largest and most well-preserved collection of faunal remains reported from a Northern Archaic context to date. This project analyzed both faunal and lithic materials to identify a more robust suite of human behaviors, better assess post-depositional processes, and delineate between cultural components. This project first focuses on intrasite activities and site function within a larger system of land use, indicating that MPS functioned repeatedly throughout the middle Holocene as a short-term hunting camp and late-stage hunting tool repair location that was occupied between the late spring and early fall. A small number of individual caribou dominate the faunal assemblage, but a narrow range of other Brooks Range prey species are also present including Dall's sheep and locally available fish and Arctic ground squirrel. This project then develops broader interpretations about the Northern Archaic tradition, investigating technological, mobility, and subsistence strategies by mid-Holocene Brooks Range hunter-gatherers. The inhabitants practiced logistical mobility and organized special task groups when resources were leaner, and came together in aggregated communities to engage in communal hunts when caribou were reliably abundant. Lithic raw material use at MPS reflects a broader Northern Archaic trend of favoring less common obsidian for maintainable tool components, and more commonly available cherts for more heavily engineered and reliable implements such as inset-microblade weapons. Finally, this thesis explores side-notched and inset-microblade projectile weapon armatures in the context of hunting strategies at MPS and other sites, suggesting that bifacially-tipped projectiles were more effective at hunting medium-range targets while inset-microblades were designed for long-range strategies.
    • 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.