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Pre-Columbian Archaeology of North America

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1 Pre-Columbian Archaeology of North America
Weeks 6: Regional Chronologies – The Arctic and Sub-arctic

2 Regional Divisions In the study of aboriginal peoples in North America, both ethnographic and archaeological, the continent is generally divided into a number of regions These will for the basis for our discussions of regional chronologies The focus will here will be on the Holocene

3 Regional Characteristics (1)
Arctic Stretching from western Alaska across the entire continent to Greenland Area north of the tree line Classic tundra conditions during the Holocene. Cold, desert-like conditions. Growing season ranges from 50 to 60 days. Average winter temperature is -34° C Average summer temperature is 3-12° C Yearly precipitation, including melting snow, is 1525 cm Flora Low shrubs, sedges (Cyperaceae), reindeer moss (Cladonia rangifera), liverworts (Hepaticae), and grasses 400 varieties of flowers crustose and foliose lichen Sedges – šáchorovité Reindeer moss: lišejník sobí Liverwort: játrovka, játerník

4 Vegetational Zones of North America

5 Tundra (Alaska National Wildlife Refuge)

6 Coastal tundra

7 Arctic Fauna: Terrestrial Mammals
Terrestrial herbivores: Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) [sob] Musk oxen (Ovibus moschatus) [pižmoň] Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) [zajíc polární] Lemming (Synaptomys spp.) [lumík] Terrestrial carnivores Wolf (Canis lupus) Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) [liška polární]


9 Arctic Fauna: Marine Mammals (1)
Seals (true/eared) Harp seal (Phoca groenlandicus) tuleň gronský Adult males grow to about 1.7 m and 130 kg; females are smaller Ringed seal (Phoca hispida) tuleň kroužkovaný Adult ringed seals are cm in length and weigh kg Ribbon seal (Phoca fasciata) tuleň pruhovaný Adult ribbon seals average cm in length and kg in weight Bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) tuleň vousatý Adult seals are m in length, and weigh about kg Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) mrož Atlantic walrus males average 3.0 m in length and weigh approximately kg.  Pacific walrus males are somewhat larger, averaging 3.2 m and approximately 1200 kg.  Females are generally smaller Northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) lachtan medvědí Adult male 2 m, kg. Average adult female 1.3 m, kg


11 Arctic Fauna: Marine Mammals (2)
Whales (toothed/baleen – ozubení/kosticovici) Beluga (Didelphinapterus leucas) běluha Adults measure m and weigh kg Narwhal (Monodon monoceros) narval Adults: m, kg, tooth: 2-3 m in length Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) plejtvákovec šedý Adults are m long and weigh about 33,000 kg Northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) velryba biskajská Adults are m long and weigh about 54,000 kg Bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) velryba gronská Adults are m long and weigh 72-91,000 kg Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) medvěd lední Male polar bears grow two to three times the size of female polar bears Males weigh about 350 to more than 650 kg and are about m long Females about 150 to 250 kg and are about 2 to 2.5 m



14 Physical Anthropology
Modern groups in the Arctic form a group distinct from the rest of the Americas’ aboriginal inhabitants This can be seen in a number of physiological and linguistic areas Eskimo-Aleut languages are related to languages spoken in eastern Siberia and not to other languages of North America Blood type distribution (see table) Y-chromosome and mtDNA differences 32 Y-chromosome haplotypes Appears to indicate relationship (Haplotype 31) with groups in central Siberia Group Type O Type A Type B Type AB Eskimo (Alaska) 38 44 13 15 Indians (USA) 79 16 4 1 Navajo 73 27 Blackfoot 17 82 Czech 30 18 9

15 Genetic distance between human populations based on research by Cavalii-Sforza

16 Figure 4. Distribution of haplogroup frequencies (pie charts) among Amerindian populations does not correspond in any simple way to language-group affiliations, suggesting that a tripartite model of migration to the New World (based on three hypothesized language groups) may be too simple. However, virtually all of the northern Na-Dene mtDNAs belong to haplogroup A, whereas those of the southern Na-Dene also include some from haplogroups B, C and D, indicating that the southern populations have mixed with the neighboring Amerindian populations since their arrival in the American Southwest some 500-to-1, 000 years ago. Certain other trends are also evident: Haplogroup A declines in frequency from north to south, whereas haplogroups C and D increase in frequency. By contrast, there is no obvious clinal distribution for haplogroup B (aside from its absence in northern North America). Whether these distributions reflect the original pattern of settlement in the Americas or subsequent genetic differentiation is not entirely clear. From “Mitochondrial DNA and the Peopling of the New World” by Theodore G. Schurr. In American Scientist, 2000:8(3)

17 Arctic (1) Arctic Small Tool tradition 4200 – 2800 BP
First identified in 1964 at Cape Denbigh, Seward Peninsula (Alaska) Spread from eastern Siberia where microblade technology has a long tradition. Considered to be ancestral to modern Inuit/Eskimo peoples First occupation of northernmost regions, including Greenland Finely made microblades, spalled burins, small side and end scrapers, and side and end blades Projectile points are triangular or pointed at both ends. Structures West: small camps and larger base camps with semi-subterranean, sod roofed houses East: Oval and circular dwellings are indicated by rings of boulders probably were used to hold down the edges of a tent. Charcoal and burnt bone found in the interior of the tent ring indicates that the shelter was heated with a central fire. As well circular soapstone dishes may have been used as lamps or heating vessels. Diverse economic activities including hunting (caribou (R. tarandus) and sea mammals), fishing Burin A tool flaked into a chisel point for inscribing or grooving bone, wood, leather, stone or antler Spalls The unused flakes left from flint knapping.

18 Arctic (2) Coastal regions of southeastern Alaska were distinct in having strongly maritime traditions Importance of slate tools, evidence of greater cultural complexity (mortuary rituals) On the Aleutian Islands, there is the Aleutian Tradition which continues up to the modern era (c AD) A core and flake tradition, with bifacial projectile points and knives, adzes and ulu blades, chisels, and awls (etc.), that remained fairly stable throughout the life of the tradition. There are also elaborate bone harpoon heads, and bone and ivory ornaments, whose shifting styles help date sites.

19 Knives Left: Ulu (woman’s knife) made of ground slate in a bone handle
Right: Man’s knife made from ivory

20 Arctic (3) Norton Tradition Evolved out of Arctic Small Tool tradition
3000 – 1200 BP Restricted to the western Arctic (Alaska) Stone tool assemblage similar to ASTt An Arctic Small Tool tradition tool base except microblades and the burin technology is gone; first pottery vessels (fiber-tempered, stamped pottery from Asia) and stone lamps for burning oil; toggling harpoons and polished slate implements. Structures/Residence Pattern First definitive shift toward establishing permanent settlements on the seacoast; substantial year-round semi-subterranean houses; dense long-term occupation (hundreds of houses occur at some sites) Elaborate ivory carvings Perhaps related to Siberian styles Major changes in subsistence strategies A more maritime focus, year round sea mammal hunting both in open water and through winter ice, intensive fishing; caribou and small mammal hunting remain important in early part of this period.

21 Arctic (4) Dorset Tradition Found in eastern Arctic 1800 – 900 BP
Also develops out of ASTt Different subsistence strategy The winter/spring season focused on sea mammal hunting (whales, seals, walrus); in the summer and fall, caribou were hunted with spears and fish (salmon, char) captured with fish harpoons and compound leisters in rivers. Rectangular, semi-subterranean winter houses, winter snow houses (igloos), and round summer tends were built. Tools include snow knives, blubber lamps, a ground slate industry, distinctive harpoon head forms, sealing projectile points. Elaborate and highly evolved artistic tradition that includes carved wood, bone, and ivory depictions of humans, spirit monsters, and animals; objects are of a magico-religious nature; supernatural universe. Lacks many elements found in the Norton and later traditions, including harpoon floats, the maupok method of hunting seals at breathing holes, dog sleds, cold-trap entrances for houses, bow and arrows, throwing boards (they used simple lances and harpoons). Disappears

22 Arctic (5) Thule Tradition
Begins c BP in the Bering Straights region Expands eastward, replacing the Dorset Tradition by c. 900 BP in all areas (including Greenland) This is the modern Inuit/Eskimo culture By c. AD 1000, all the major items of historic Eskimo culture existed throughout the Alaskan coast, including fully equipped kayaks, umiaks, dog sleds, harpoon line floats, sunken houses with deep entrances, heavy use of polished slate tools, pottery (thick and gravel tempered), and a wide variety of specialized tools and weapons (e.g., components for specialized arrows, darts, and spears for fish, birds, and different size sea mammals; toggling and non-toggling harpoons; dart heads for land mammals; snow goggles). An extensive organic inventory survives in the archaeological record. These items revolutionized coastal life throughout the Arctic. Some appear in the archaeological for the first time (kayaks, umiaks, dog sleds, efficient toggling harpoons, harpoon line floats, harpoon mounted ice picks). Objects of iron (demonstrating contact with Siberian peoples. Umiak: an open boat made from a wooden or bone frame and covered with animal skins, usually using broad paddles

23 Arctic (6) Thule was a highly specialized culture that emphasized whale hunting where possible and winter ice hunting. Large villages at favorable whaling locations organized economically and ceremonially into whaling crews and whaleboat owning entrepreneurs as in the historic period. Their art is a high point of all Eskimo art traditions. Elaborate carved ivory objects. Changes through time in this tradition seen mainly in differences in harpoon styles and art motifs. Thule Expansion Eastward. After c. AD 900, Thule traits and people move southward to the Pacific coast, into the Alaskan interior (e.g., Arctic Woodland culture), and across northern Canada to Greenland. Probably related to a warm weather cycle (Medieval Warm Period) that shifted pack ice northward and changed path of sea-mammal migrations. Retreated after AD 1300 in cold period. In eastern regions pottery replaced by soapstone vessels Hunters of seals, walrus, and large whales. Used seal-skin covered kayak and more substantial umiak for hunting and rapid transportation in summer; dog sleds in winter. Used bow and arrow for caribou and musk ox. Harpoons often propelled by throwing board. Three house types. Snow house, tent (animal skin), sod house (wood/bone and stone frame covered in earth)

24 Arctic Small Tool Tradition Illustrations A: Map B: A complete flaked stone end-blade from the Arctic Small Tool tradition C: A fragment of a flaked stone end-blade (i.e, the sharp blade that would be mounted at the tip of a bone, antler or ivory harpoon or spear) D: This Arctic Small Tool tradition tent ring is referred to as a "mid-passage" house. The outer ring of rocks would have weighed down the edges of a tent. The "mid-passage" is formed by the parallel lines of rocks dividing the interior of the house; at the center of the mid-passage there is a small hearth or fireplace in which willow twigs or driftwood would have been burned.

25 Norton Tradition Illustrations A: Ivory figurine, c. 1900 BP
Norton Tradition Illustrations A: Ivory figurine, c BP. Markings on the smaller face demonstrate tattooing B: Difference between a non-toggling and toggling harpoon, which toggles beneath the skin and blubber where it cannot be broken off by ice and holds heavier prey like whales and walrus. C: Stone lamps

26 Dorset Tradition Illustrations A: Map B: Top left to right: flaked stone end-blade to fit in the tip of a harpoon head; 3 harpoon heads; a so-called "spatula" carving; bottom: a harpoon foreshaft and harpoon head. C: Ivory doll, 7 cm tall

27 Umiak

28 Inuit kayak (max. length 5 m)

29 Kayak loaded with sealskin float, weapons, etc.

30 Sled (toy)

31 House Types

32 Subterranean Thule House Devon Island, Canadian Arctic

33 Sub-arctic Sub-arctic
Runs across the whole of the continent, from interior Alaska to Labrador peninsula and Newfoundland Taiga (continuous coniferous forest) The taiga is a moist sub-arctic forest that begins where the tundra ends. Winters are long, dark and cold with lots of snow (min. - 60°C) Summers are warm and short when the daylight can be up to 20 hours long (max. 40°C). Annual precipitation between mm Major type of vegetation is coniferous evergreens. Fir (Abiesi), spruce (Picea), birch (Betula), juniper (Juniperus), tamarack (Larix) Non-coniferous trees and plants Alder (Alnus), aspen (Populus), willow Lichens, mosses, sedges, grasses, bushes, berries fir=jedle; spruce=smrk; birch=bříza; juniper=jalovec; tamarck=modřín; alder=olše; aspen=osika;

34 Sub-arctic Fauna (1) Herbivores Caribou Moose (Alces alces) los
Snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) zajíc měnivý Beaver (Castor canidensis) bobr kanadský Lemming Vole (Microtus spp.) hraboš American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) čikarí červený (syn. veveřice červená)

35 Sub-arctic Fauna (2) Carnivores Bears Canines Felines Mustelids
Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) American black bear (Ursus americanus) baribal Canines Wolf Coyote (Canis latrans) Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) Felines Lynx (Lynx canadensis) Mustelids Wolverine (Gulo gulo) rosomák Otter, marten, mink, weasle

36 Sub-Arctic Northern Archaic
6500 – 2500 BP Research inhibited by a general lack of well-stratified sites, impact of climate, size of region Particularly in western half of region Northern variant of generalized Archaic found throughout North America Technologically related to ASTt Microblades, burins Depended on caribou and fishing in rivers and streams for their livelihood, staying inland and near the trees most of the time. Most probably represents ancestral Indian populations as opposed to paleo-Eskimo. Throughout this region Arctic and Sub-Arctic traditions expanded and retracted depending on variations in the climate Archaic hunters of ultimate eastern North American origin, possessing notched projectile points, spread northward from the Plains with the expanding boreal forest to displace indigenous populations whose tool kits were characterized by microblades (ASTt) Known as Shield Cultures in east.

37 Shield Cultures (1) Both Late Eastern Shield and Late Western Shield cultures developed out of the Middle Shield culture (6,000 to 2,500 BP) 2500 BP to European contact (17th to 19th centuries) The basis for distinguishing between these two closely related cultures is largely technological as their settlement patterns and subsistence practices were very similar, if not identical, in most instances. Late Eastern Shield culture retained the older stone working traditions of their predecessors whereas Late Western Shield culture continued a late Middle Shield culture development in the west that involved abandoning the use of massive siliceous deposits, such as quartzite and rhyolite, with their resulting large bifacial and unifacial tools, in favour of Hudson Bay Lowlands nodular cherts with their comparatively diminutive tool products. While both cultures made extensive use of local veins of quartz as expedient cutting and scraping chunks and flakes, the practice appears to have been far more common in the east. Late Eastern Shield culture also rejected pottery vessels as an important item in their tool kit unlike their western kinsmen.

38 Shield Cultures (2) In fact, the limited pottery from Late Eastern Shield sites may simply represent the products of Late Western Shield culture and Late Great Lakes-St. Lawrence culture women moving from their homelands in the west and south to join the bands of their husbands to the north and east. Occurrences of pottery becomes progressively sparse as one advances eastward and northward and thus further away from the homelands of the hypothesized cultures within which it represented a significant element of technology. This progressively fading pattern of pottery vessel distribution to the east maintains itself into Period V (A.D. 500 to European contact) where the East Cree, Montagnais (Naskapi), and Attikamek of Late Eastern Shield culture territory basically rejected pottery manufacturing unlike their western and southern kinsmen the West Main Cree, Algonquin, Southern and Northern Ojibwa, Western Woods Cree, and the Late Winnipeg Saulteaux. What pottery does occur is clearly related to western styles and was likely a product of women from western bands joining their husbands in the eastern bands. Subsistence and settlement patterns remain unchanged from the preceding period and, for that matter, were to remain unchanged up to the time of European contact. Sites such as the Chicoutimi site at the juncture of the Saugenay and Chicoutimi rivers contained occupational debris spanning more than 3,000 years and terminated with a historical documented Montagnais occupation. Unfortunately the cultural deposits at this site were hopelessly intermixed. Like other large sites, the Chicoutimi site was a favourable location where a band or, more likely, a number of bands gathered on a seasonal basis.

39 Western/Northwestern Sub-Arctic
2500 BP to European Contact (nineteenth century) Interior culture must be viewed in relationship to its geographical setting. The region is physiographically dominated by the northwest trending Cordillera consisting of coastal and interior mountain ranges with intervening smaller mountain ranges and plateaus. Major drainages are the Yukon and the Mackenzie, two of the largest river systems in the world. Within this complex mosaic of landforms, small hunting bands relied upon fish and caribou as well as regionally and seasonally available small game, waterfowl, moose, and berries. To survive in a region with widely dispersed food resources and peak periods of abundance and scarcity has always demanded a broadly based and flexible foraging pattern.

40 Distribution of Sub-Arctic Cultures: Map III - Cultural Distributions, 4,000 to 1,000 B.C. A Middle Maritime | B Middle Great Lakes-St. Lawrence | C Middle Shield | D Middle Plains | E Middle Plateau | F Early West Coast | G Middle Northwest Interior | H Early Palaeo-Eskimo

41 Interior projectile points (Yukon): wide range of sizes, shapes, styles

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