Dry Creek: Archaeology and Paleoecology of a Late Pleistocene Alaskan Hunting Camp

Dry Creek: Archaeology and Paleoecology of a Late Pleistocene Alaskan Hunting Camp

Dry Creek: Archaeology and Paleoecology of a Late Pleistocene Alaskan Hunting Camp

Dry Creek: Archaeology and Paleoecology of a Late Pleistocene Alaskan Hunting Camp

Synopsis

With cultural remains dated unequivocally to 13,000 calendar years ago, Dry Creek assumed major importance upon its excavation and study by W. Roger Powers. The site was the first to conclusively demonstrate a human presence that could be dated to the same time as the Bering Land Bridge. As Powers and his team studied the site, their work verified initial expectations. Unfortunately, the research was never fully published.

Dry Creek: The Archaeology and Paleoecology of a Late Pleistocene Alaskan Hunting Camp is ready to take its rightful place in the ongoing research into the peopling of the Americas. Containing the original research, this book also updates and reconsiders Dry Creek in light of more recent discoveries and analysis.

Excerpt

Ted Goebel

Historically, Dry Creek is one of the most important archaeological sites of Beringia, the Ice Age gateway to the Americas. To understand Dry Creek’s significance, consider the state of Alaskan archaeology in 1974, when Roger Powers, professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, initiated its full-scale excavation. Geomorphologists understood that the Bering Land Bridge persisted from about 35,000 to 11,000 radiocarbon years ago ( C yr bp, or 40,000 to 13,000 calendar years ago [cal yr BP]), but no evidence of humans dating to this time had been found in eastern Beringia to demonstrate its use as a migration route from Asia to America. Likewise, paleoecologists knew that late Pleistocene Alaska was home to a rich fauna of now-extinct megamammals—predominantly mammoth, horse, and steppe bison—but unlike in northern Eurasia and temperate North America, there was still no evidence that early Alaskans encountered, let alone hunted, these animals. South of the Canadian ice sheets, archaeologists had established the widespread presence of the Clovis Culture by about 11,000 C yr bp (13,000 cal yr BP), but north of the ice sheets, no such complex—as old as Clovis or older—had been found. Simply put, despite years of searching (e.g., Anderson 1968a; Müller Beck 1967; West 1967), even as late as 1974, Alaskan archaeologists had not directly contributed to the scientific investigation of the peopling of the Americas.

All this changed with the discovery and excavation of the Dry Creek site. Excavated from 1973 through 1977, Dry Creek became the first place in Alaska where a series of late Pleistocene cultural occupations was unearthed in a well-stratified context. Initial radiocarbon dates suggested the presence of humans by 11,120 ± 85 C yr bp (12,970 cal yr BP), the first uncontested claim that humans lived in Alaska before the flooding of the Bering Land Bridge. Faunal remains from the site’s late Pleistocene cultural components included steppe bison (Bison priscus), suggesting the Dry Creek site’s early occupants hunted at least one member of Beringia’s now-extinct complex of megafauna. Moreover, at 11,120 C yr bp (12,970 cal yr BP), Dry Creek’s earliest occupation was contemporaneous to Clovis, and large-scale excavations provided an important chronologically constrained sample of tools, cores, and debitage, providing a tantalizing first glimpse of what Clovis-aged lithic technology in Alaska looked like. For some, it provided the long-sought-after link between the . . .

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