First Advisor

Shelby L. Anderson

Date of Publication

Winter 3-14-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology






Indians of North America -- Alaska, Northwest -- Antiquities, Sexual division of labor, Spatial analysis (Statistics) in archaeology



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 132 pages)


Activities and production among ethnographic Arctic peoples were primarily divided by gender. This gendered division of labor also extended to a spatial segregated pattern of the household in some Arctic cultures. Other cultures had a more gender-integrated spatial pattern of the household. There have been very few archaeological studies of gender in the Arctic, and even fewer studies of gendered use of space.

In this thesis, I evaluated the existence of this gendered use of space in pre-contact Northwest Alaska. I also evaluated the existence of discrete activity spaces. I drew from both ethnoarchaeology and gender/feminist archaeology to both construct my hypotheses and interpret my results. I used ceramics, which were likely primarily made by and used by women, as a proxy for women's movement within the house. Ceramics are abundant and well-preserved in many Northwestern Alaskan sites, and are well suited for a robust spatial analysis. In addition to ceramics, I also evaluated the spatial density of other female artifacts, like ulus or scrapers, and male artifacts, like harpoon points or adzes, in order to further test the existence of gender specific use of space.

I tested this using the HDBSCAN (Hierarchical Density Based Spatial Clustering of Applications with Noise) algorithm in Python, a programming language. HDBSCAN identifies discrete clusters of artifacts, as well as the persistence, or stability, of the cluster. Birnirk and Thule era (1300-150 BP) house features from Cape Espenberg, Alaska, were used to test these expectations.

Based on the results of my spatial analysis, I did not find any evidence of gender specific use of space, nor did I find specific activity areas within the house. My findings are not necessarily an indication that gender-segregated use of space does not exist among pre-contact Northwest Alaskan people: I just did not find evidence supporting it. This could be, in part, due to issues of sample size, house size, and the role of secondary and post deposition processes in shaping the ceramic assemblage and distribution. While ceramics did cluster, they mostly clustered in the entrance tunnel of the house. This is likely the result of cleaning, storage, or other depositional processes. When ceramics did cluster in the main rooms, clustering was idiosyncratic. Male and female artifacts were not spatially segregated. Female artifacts were slightly more likely to cluster than male artifacts. Both sets of artifacts were generally in the same area as the ceramic clusters. While this study did not find evidence of gendered use of space, it still is an important contribution of addressing questions of gender in the Arctic. In addition, it is a valuable methodological contribution, using a clustering algorithm that previously has not been frequently used by archaeologists.


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