This research was funded by the National Park Service through a cooperative agreement (J8W07070032) managed the Pacific Northwest Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit and with support from the Great Lakes-Northern Forest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (GLNF CESU, Task Agreement #J979108J048).
Human ecology, Nature -- Effect of human beings on, Paleoecology -- Arctic regions, Geomorphology, Cape Krusenstern (Alaska)
Archaeologists hypothesize that mid-late Holocene environmental variability played a role in several significant western Arctic cultural developments including population fluctuations, the evolution of Arctic maritime adaptations, and Arctic-wide migrations. Further evaluation of these hypotheses requires higher resolution archaeological and paleoecological datasets than are currently available. In response, we undertook an interdisciplinary study at Cape Krusenstern, a large coastal site complex in northwest Alaska, which was occupied over the last ca. 5000–6000 years. Our goals were to refine local cultural and paleoenvironmental chronologies and to explore the question of how local environmental change may have influenced local settlement history. The resulting revised chronology and depositional units confirm and refine prior interpretation of the local archaeological settlement history. New geomorphological data on coastal environmental change and post-depositional modification of the Cape Krusenstern beach ridge system also provide information about patterns of archaeological site preservation, indicating periods of potentially poorer site preservation around 3990 cal BP; this informs interpretation of forager settlement data. Furthermore, our findings suggest that climate-driven changes in the coastal environment at Cape Krusenstern may not be as determinative in terms of landscape evolution as previously thought. Future work should focus on further investigating the relationship between beach ridge development and regional climatic patterns on a regional scale, as this has implications for use of beach ridges as a mid-late Holocene climate proxy. Continued efforts to build paleoenvironmental reconstructions of higher temporal and spatial resolution for the region will help address remaining questions about the relationship between local coastal environmental changes and regional patterns, and the impacts of these environmental shifts on local residents.
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Published as: Anderson, S., Jordan, J., & Freeburg, A. (2018). Human settlement and Mid-Late Holocene coastal environmental change at Cape Krusenstern, Northwest Alaska. Quaternary International.