• Beach ridge geomorphology of Kotzebue Sound: Implications for paleoclimatology and archaeology

      Mason, Owen Kenneth (1990)
      Beach ridges occur on all continents and record the horizontal addition of shoreface beyond the reach of storms. Improved cartographic methods in the nineteenth century allowed British historians to link shoreline changes with abandoned villages. This scientific trajectory was paralleled in the Bering Strait region from the 1880's to the 1930's. In the 1950's J. L. Giddings formalized "beach ridge archaeology" as a survey strategem using relative position to infer relative cultural chronology in northwest Alaska. Modern researchers use archaeological dates and data to document past climates or environments. At Cape Espenberg, on Seward Peninsula, my use of archaeological, stratigraphic, pedological, granulometric and photogrammetric data allows the delineation of 4000 years of coastal evolution. Four chronostratigraphic units are distinguished, using archaeological dates as minimum age assignments. Dune ridges formed in discrete intervals: 3300 to 2000 BP and from 1200 BP to the present; while low, berm ridges are predominant 4000-3300 and from 2000-1200 BP. The two different types of ridges correspond to variable climatic conditions: dune ridges formed after higher storm surges and winter winds while the lower berm ridges are related to less intense storm surges. Coastal dunes at Cape Espenberg are soon altered by plant succession processes with distance from the beach. As primary dunes are eroded, a complex blowout topography results. Erosional processes in blowouts were monitored during 1987-1989, revealing substantial vertical changes, up to 10 cm of erosion per yr. These rapid changes have considerable influence on archaeological site stability. Studies of the gravel ridge systems confirm the proxy storm record apparent in the coastal dunes atop the beach ridges on the Seward Peninsula. The geoarchaeological methodology allows correlations between depositional units within nine of the principal beach ridge and chenier complexes of northwest Alaska. The onset of deposition was at 4000-3500 BP. The complexes at Cape Espenberg and Choris Peninsula contain elevated, broader transgressive ridge sets 3300-2000 BP and from 1100-200 BP, connected with increased storm activity in the North Pacific. Erosional disconformities between successive sets of beach ridges occur at Cape Krusenstern at ca. 3000 BP and before 2000 BP. Between 2000-1000 BP extensive progradation occurred at nearly all complexes, indicating that less stormy conditions predominated.
    • Historical archaeology of Alaskan placer gold mining settlements: Evaluating process-pattern relationships

      Mills, Robin Owen (1998)
      The objective of this research is to explicate appropriate methods for investigating relationships between past historical processes and variables, and resulting contemporary patterns in archaeological and historical data sets. Turn-of-the-twentieth century placer gold mining in interior Alaska is used as a case study to evaluate these relationships. By linking observable patterns in historical data sets with the variables and processes that in part create and shape them, a more-complete, context-specific explanation of past events and actions emerges when the data are evaluated in specific historical settings. The methodological approach used here is to just formulate explicit "expectations," and then to evaluate them against independent Alaskan historical and archaeological data sets. The expectations derive from independent comparative historical geographical, and archaeological research. One series of nine expectations evaluates attributes of artifacts relating to site and feature abandonment processes relating to curation and scavenging, including specific traits of artifacts in curated and scavenged deposits; the changing effects of continued curation and scavenging on an artifactual assemblage through time; and spatial characteristics of artifacts within curated and scavenged foundations. Four types of data are used evaluate the expectations, including the size of artifacts, whether they are still functional or usable, their spatial provenience within excavated structures, and a feature's data range. Seven of these expectations are corroborated, one is falsified, and one requires further data for a full evaluation. A second series of seven expectations examines aspects of placer gold mining settlement and transportation systems, including the core-peripheral relationship between Alaska and the United States; the nature of expansion of gold mining settlements into new areas; locational, demographic, and physical layout characteristics of settlement systems; the mining settlement hierarchy and its changing components through time; and characteristics of the supporting transportation supply system. These expectations, while also corroborated by the Alaskan data, lend themselves more to historical context-specific understanding and interpretation, as opposed to the strict corroboration-falsification dichotomy of the abandonment analyses.
    • Technological development and culture change on St. Lawrence Island: A functional typology of toggle harpoon heads

      Lewis, Michael A. (1995)
      Our understanding of the culture history of the Bering Strait region is based on the chronology of St. Lawrence Island toggle harpoon heads proposed by Henry Collins in 1937. Subsequent attempts to develop harpoon head typologies from other parts of the Bering Strait are built on Collins' stylistic classification, which does not account for the full range of variation in St. Lawrence Island harpoon heads. The resulting confusion of harpoon head categories has clouded the interpretation of patterns in the material remains and has perpetuated a unilineal theory of culture change in Bering Strait Eskimo groups. This dissertation critically examines previous investigations and interpretations of archeological sites on St. Lawrence Island and Punuk Island. A contextual analysis of radiocarbon dates from these sites serves to evaluate the currently accepted chronology of occupation. The typology of St. Lawrence Island toggle harpoon heads proposed is based on a structural analysis of the raw materials and a functional analysis of the components of the harpoon head. The concept of functional strategies explains variation in harpoon head styles and gives meaning to the statistical analysis of attribute associations. A series of dendrochronological dates from the Kukulik site is compared with radiocarbon dates from other sites and combined with the harpoon head typology to develop a chronology of St. Lawrence Island occupations. The harpoon head typology reveals the presence of two distinct culture groups co-resident on St. Lawrence Island and the Bering Strait region from approximately 1600 to 1000 cal C-14 B.P. The Old Bering Sea/Birnirk group, associated with a generalized Eskimo subsistence adaptation, was present from 1600 to 1300 cal C-14 B.P. The Okvik/Ipiutak group, focused on sea mammal and whale hunting, is undated on St. Lawrence Island. Based on comparison with date ranges in other Bering Strait sites, the Okvik/Ipiutak group is assumed to be roughly contemporaneous with the Old Bering Sea/Birnirk group. The interaction of these two groups on St. Lawrence Island, interpreted by Collins as the Punuk culture, was present from 1300 to 1000 cal C-14 B.P.
    • The Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in Siberia

      Goebel, Frank E. (Ted); Powers, W. Roger; Scott, G. Richard; Hopkins, David M.; Guthrie, R. Dale; Gerlach, S. Craig (1994)
      This dissertation presents results of recent research in Siberia directed at (1) developing an accurate archaeological chronology for the mid-Upper Pleistocene of Siberia (chiefly through accelerator radiocarbon methods), and (2) defining and characterizing the region's Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition. Eleven Middle Paleolithic sites are now known from southwest Siberia. Relative age estimates of these cultural occupations range from the Last Interglacial (oxygen-isotope substage 5e, 128,000-118,000 years ago) to the mid-Middle Pleniglacial (oxygen-isotope stage 3,50,000-40,000 years ago). Associated lithic industries are Levallois and Mousterian. Middle Paleolithic interassemblage lithic variability is hinged on the differential production of Levallois points and Levallois flakes, and the intensity of side scraper reduction. Hominid remains from two sites, Denisova Peshchera and Peshchera Okladnikov, appear pre-modern and exhibit affinities to Neanderthals from southwest Asia. At least 15 sites have been assigned to the Siberian early Upper Paleolithic. Radiocarbon dates range from 42,000 to 30,000 years ago. Occupations at Kara-Bom (component IIa), Makarovo-4, and Varvarina Gora predate the effective range of radiocarbon dating (40,000 years ago), and may be considerably older than radiocarbon dates suggest. Initial Upper Paleolithic industries are characterized by the detachment of blades from "flat-faced" parallel blade cores, the absence of Levallois techniques, the presence of bifacial and burin secondary reduction technologies, and tool kits with end scrapers, angle burins, wedges, gravers, bifacial knives, and slender retouched points on blades. Also occurring for the first time are worked bone, ivory, and antler points, awls, and needles, pendants and other items of personal adornment, and rare examples of mobiliary art. Diagnostic hominid fossils are absent. The Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition involved dramatic and multi-faceted changes in tool technologies and tool forms. Patterns of change are discrete rather than discontinuous; no transitional industries have been identified. Stratigraphic evidence indicates rapid succession from one technocomplex to the other. This evidence supports population replacement rather than continuity for the origins of the Siberian Upper Paleolithic. Whether this event also signals the appearance of modern humans in this and surrounding areas of inner Asia must await additional hominid fossil discoveries.
    • Twentieth century Inupiaq Eskimo reindeer herding on northern Seward Peninsula, Alaska

      Simon, James Johnson Koffroth; Schweitzer, Peter P. (1998)
      Domesticated reindeer were introduced to Alaska from the Russian Far East at the end of the nineteenth century as a project in social engineering designed to assist in the assimilation of Alaska Natives into Euroamerican society. Most previous discussions of Alaska Native reindeer herding have focused on reindeer introduction as an agent of culture change associated with culture contact and economic modernization. This diachronic study of more than a century of Bering Strait Inupiaq reindeer herding, however, demonstrates that reindeer herding was incorporated into traditional Inupiaq culture and society to the extent that it now helps to maintain and reproduce traditional Inupiaq values and social relations. Inupiaq reindeer herding emerged as a result of the previous experience the Bering Strait Inupiat had with the intercontinental trade of Chukchi reindeer herding products prior to reindeer introduction. Bering Strait Inupiat were already aware of the economic potential of reindeer herding, such that reindeer herding was incorporated into traditional Inupiaq conceptions of property, wealth, prestige, social organization, subsistence, and land use practices. This incorporation provided the opportunity for the Bering Strait Inupiat to improve standards of life during a period of rapid social change associated with increasing Euroamerican influences. Furthermore, it also provided a means to maintain Inupiaq cultural identity through the emergence of reindeer umialiks and through the importance of reindeer herding in maintaining traditional social relations. In effect, reindeer herding became part of Bering Strait Inupiaq traditional culture through its importance to Inupiaq cultural reproduction.