First Advisor

Shelby L. Anderson

Date of Publication

Spring 9-5-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology






Spatial analysis (Statistics) in archaeology, Land settlement patterns -- Northwest Alaska, Geographic information systems



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 303 pages)


In northwest Alaska, archaeologists hypothesize that environmental variability was a major factor in both growing coastal population density, with large aggregated villages and large houses, between 1000 and 500 years ago (ya), and subsequent decreasing population density between 500 ya and the contact era. After 500 ya people are thought to have dispersed to smaller settlements with smaller house sizes in coastal areas, and perhaps, upriver. This settlement pattern was identified through research at four site locations over 30 years ago. The changing geographic distribution of sites, associated settlement size, and house size has not been examined in detail. A more careful examination of changing northwest Alaskan settlement patterns is needed before larger questions about socio-economic organization can be addressed. I use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to evaluate the evidence for a geographic redistribution of Arctic peoples during the Late Holocene.

The author constructed a database of settlement location and site attribute information, specifically the number of houses within each settlement and the size (m2). Data were collected from a dataset of Western Arctic National Parklands (WEAR), the Alaska Heritage Resource Survey (AHRS) database of archaeological sites in Alaska, 409 unpublished site reports and field notes curated by the National Park Service (NPS) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the results of recent fieldwork in northwest Alaska. A total of 486 settlements were identified within the northwest Alaska with 128 settlements having temporal and site attribute data.

The author incorporated settlement size data into a GIS database and then carried out global, Moran's I, local Moran's I, and local Getis-Ord spatial analyses to test whether settlement redistribution occurred and if key settlement locations shifted after 500 ya. The site attribute data (number of houses and average size of houses) are used to test the additional aspects of the proposed settlement pattern change after 500 ya. A total of 83 settlements with 465 houses are used to test if the average size of settlements and average house size changed after 500 ya.

The results of the spatial analyses indicate no statistically significant patterns in the spatial distribution of settlements. Site attribute analysis shows no statistical difference in the average number of houses per village or the average size of houses before or after 500 ya. The results of this work build our understanding of regional settlement patterns during the late Holocene. By testing settlement pattern change, i.e. settlement distribution, settlement size, and house size, future research into settlement pattern change can begin to evaluate likely causes for the observed changes. My method, specifically the use of GIS as a method for testing settlement pattern change, can be applied to other regions and temporal scales.


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