Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Paleoarctic Human Adaptations
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A fundamental question driving anthropological science today asks how humans spread across the Earth and adapt to the world's varied environments. This research arena is an important theoretical and methodological marketplace where geneticists, biological anthropologists, paleoecologists, and archaeologists work to explain the process of global human dispersal. This is especially the case in the Americas, where genetic models predict that humans of the late Ice Age rapidly filled the Western Hemisphere, originating in greater Northeast Asia, spreading to Alaska, and reaching the Southern Cone of South America, between 24,000 and 12,000 calendar years ago. Archaeological evidence is required from these scattered regions to empirically test the genetic-based theory of how early hunter-gatherers dispersed. One of the most visible components of the archaeological record is the variable forms of weapons and projectile points that prehistoric hunters across northern Asia and America used, specifically stone lanceolate points versus bone/antler/ivory points, the latter sometimes inset with stone microblades. The functional, environmental, and social factors that influenced these weapon designs remain unknown. Why did ancient foragers of Siberia and Alaska employ different weapon systems as they entered the Americas? How did these variable weapons facilitate settlement of every ecological niche in the Western Hemisphere? The new research will offer insight into the use of major projectile-point technologies and human decision-making processes as early Americans dispersed through different environments, at the end of the Ice Age when dramatic climatic and ecological changes were taking place, broadening knowledge of human adaptability, especially in northern landscapes. The international context of the research will foster relationships between a new generation of American, Canadian, and Russian archaeologists investigating human behavioral change and adaptation in the circumpolar Arctic. The project will engage Alaskan Native communities through educational demonstrations of projectile systems traditionally used in subsistence activities, promoting positive relationships between archaeologists and the public. Understanding the functions of these important artifacts will help sustain traditional subsistence practices among Native Alaskans and will help reveal the reasons for ancient assemblage differences and ultimately how these differences relate to the colonization of Beringia and the Americas..........