Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Award: Long Term Human Adaptation in Beringia
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Angela Gore, PhD candidate at Texas A&M University, will undertake research in central Alaska to understand the timing and settling-in processes of the First Americans and their descendants. Archeological and genomic evidence point to eastern Beringia as a gateway through which ancient peoples first migrated from Northeast Asia, therefore the rich archaeological record of central Alaska is key in unraveling questions of adaptation and behavior of the earliest Alaskans through time. The Alaskan record exhibits sizeable technological variability from 14 thousand to 5 thousand years ago and answers to questions about the first Alaskans are still elusive: how did ancient Beringians utilize and learn the landscape around them as they first encountered it? How did they adapt their technologies and mobile strategies through millennia of shifting climate and resulting resource fluctuation? This research expands knowledge of modern human adaptation and settlement of extreme northern environments and sheds light on the impact of climate change on human populations. This research provides a graduate student with a transformative research experience to be shared with academics, the public, and with Native Alaskans and First Nations peoples to whom it is directly relevant. Gore will begin to unravel questions of landscape learning and behavioral variation in the archaeological record of central Alaska through the lens of stone tool procurement and use as evident in ancient toolkits. Mapping and sampling of the lithic sources within the Nenana River valley area, from outcrop to creek and river alluvium will reconstruct the lithic landscape exploited by prehistoric Alaskans. Geochemical analysis of non-obsidian volcanic stone sources in the valley provides a fingerprint of these sources against which artifacts from archaeological sites spanning 14 ka to 5 ka will be compared to reconstruct mobile strategies, landscape use, and changes in these behaviors through time. Gore will integrate geochemical toolstone sourcing with lithic analysis of these same archaeological collections to provide a comprehensive description of behavior and behavioral change of ancient Alaskans from colonization to settling-in on the landscape. Together, these methods provide a better understanding of the nuanced and complex interactions between landscape, environment and human culture. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.