Aquatic Adaptations and the Adoption of Arctic Pottery Technology: Results of Residue Analysis

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American Antiquity

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The late adoption of pottery technology in the North American Arctic between 2,500 and 2,800 years ago coincides with the development of a specialized maritime economy. Arctic pottery technologies present an excellent case study for examining possible correlations between hunter-gatherer pottery and aquatic resource use. Review of the timing and distribution of early pottery in Alaska shows that early pottery is rare and dates at the earliest to 2,500 years ago; the earliest pottery is found in small numbers and primarily in coastal areas. Despite expectations that pottery use would be strongly linked to marine lipids, biomarkers and compound-specific δ13C values of 20 sherds from the Cape Krusenstern site complex, dating from 2700 to 200 cal B.P. years ago, are most consistent with freshwater aquatic resources; mixtures of freshwater aquatic, marine aquatic, and terrestrial resources are also possible. While additional analysis of a larger sample and zooarchaeological reference specimens is necessary, our study suggests that the development of pottery production by Arctic peoples is more complex than previously appreciated. This research is the first synthesis in over 30 years of early pottery in Alaska and is the first to include residue analysis of a small sample of pre-1500 B.P. pottery.


© 2017 by the Society for American Archaeology



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