First Advisor

Kenneth M. Ames

Date of Publication

Winter 7-20-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Anthropology






Prehistoric land settlement patterns -- Pacific Northwest, Hunting and gathering societies -- Pacific Northwest



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 175 pages)


Focusing on the relationship between demography and sedentary behavior, this thesis explores changes to mobility strategies on the Northern Northwest Coast of North America between 11,000 and 5,000 cal BP. Drawing on a regional database of radiocarbon dates, it uses summed probability distributions (SPDs) of calibrated dates as a proxy for population change, in combination with syntheses of previously published technological, paleo environmental and settlement pattern data to test three hypotheses derived from the literature about the development of logistic mobility among maritime hunter-gatherers on the Northern Coast.

In all, each of the hypotheses proposes that early peoples on the coast were foragers that utilized high levels of residential mobility, who later adopted collector (logistic) strategies. Two of the hypotheses emphasize the role of population growth and/or packing and resource distribution in this transformation, while the third emphasizes population replacement. Other issues addressed within this thesis are whether or not the forager-collector continuum, as it is used for terrestrial hunter-gatherers, can be applied to those in aquatic settings. Also explored, is the question of whether the available data is sufficient for making and/or testing claims about early mobility patterns in the region.

The results of the demographic models suggest that while population levels were volatile, volatility declined through time and that there is no significant trend in either growth or decline of overall population levels throughout the region. This thesis also confirmed that significant changes to mobility, as evidenced by the emergence of semi-sedentary to sedentary living, begin to appear by ~7,000 cal BP. However, there appears to be little, if any correlation between the advent of more sedentary and logistic behavior and any of the variables tested here. Thus this author suggests, in agreement with Ames (1985; 2004) and Binford (2001) that the distribution of resources and labor organization needs within aquatic environments are sufficient without any other drivers for the development and intensification of logistic mobility.

The principle analytic contribution of this research comes from the demographic modeling that relied on the construction of summed probability distributions. Though these methods have become commonplace in other settings (namely Europe), this thesis presents the first application of these methods within the time period and region covered. Moreover, this research is one of the only of its kind to address demographic histories within coastal landscapes that utilizes both marine and terrestrial 14C samples. In order to explore possible biases within the database, comparisons of marine and terrestrial SPDs were made between sub-sections of the region (i.e. Haida Gwaii, Southeast Alaska and the Dundas Islands).

Though patterning between each of these areas was consistent, these comparative methods revealed an unexpected finding; a massive population crash throughout the region that began between ~9,000-8,800 cal BP and lasted till around 8,400 cal BP. Importantly, this crash was witnessed within all of the individual sub-areas and within SPDs made from both the marine and terrestrial 14C samples, though the reasons behind this collapse and verification of its existence require future research. However, finding this collapse at all further highlighted the need for use of correctly calibrated 14C dates, as the gap in 14C dates effectively disappears when using uncalibrated dates, which has been a longstanding tradition within Northwest archaeology.


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Persistent Identifier

407155_supp_6D2A1C4E-C38F-11E5-90E6-772795EF0FC5.csv (5250 kB)
Radiocarbon database with dates used throughout thesis

Included in

Anthropology Commons