Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Native americans’

bluefish cave bone

bluefish cave bone

 

Original Article:

westerndigs.org

by Blake de Pastino

A close look at bones found in a Yukon cave seems to confirm a controversial finding made decades ago, archaeologists say: that humans arrived in North America 10,000 years earlier than many experts believe.

The bones are the remains of horse, bison, mammoths, and other Ice Age fauna, originally excavated from the Bluefish Caves near the border of Alaska and the Yukon Territory in the 1970s and 1980s.

Back then, radiocarbon dating placed the bones at about 25, 000 years old — not in itself surprising, except that many of the bones appeared to have been butchered by humans.

And the earliest evidence of human activity on the continent — at least at the time — dated back a mere 14,000 years.

Anthropologist Lauriane Bourgeon at the University of Montreal has devoted her doctoral thesis to revisiting the controversy surrounding the Bluefish Caves bones.

And she has concluded that more than a dozen of the animal bones do indeed bear “indisputable evidence of butchery activity,” showing that humans were on the continent well before the end of the last Ice Age.

The implications of these findings are weighty, not only for the timing of the peopling of the Americas, but for the way in which people actually moved from Asia into what’s known as Eastern Beringia — the swath of North America immediately east of the Bering Strait.

Bluefish Caves are located near the Ogilvie Mountains in Yukon Territory. (Photo courtesy Lauriane Bourgeon)

Bluefish Caves are located near the Ogilvie Mountains in Yukon Territory. (Photo courtesy Lauriane Bourgeon)

“In addition to proving that Bluefish Caves is the oldest known archaeological site in North America,” Bourgeon and her colleagues write in the journal PLOS One, “the results offer archaeological support for the ‘Beringian standstill hypothesis,’ which proposes that a genetically isolated human population persisted in Beringia during the Last Glacial Maximum (ed: the Ice Age) and dispersed from there to North and South America.”

The caves were first excavated by Canadian archaeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars starting in 1977, who posited, based on radiocarbon dating at the time, that the scored and damaged animal bones were evidence of human activity in the Americas as much as 25,000 years ago.

Largely dismissed and later overlooked, the theory was recently taken up by Bourgeon.

In 2015, she published some of her preliminary findings, after having studied 5,600 bone fragments from Cave 2 of the Bluefish Caves.

Most of the scoring and hatching marks on the bones were made by scavenging animals and not humans, she said.

But at least two of the bones did betray the tell-tale signs of human butchery, she said, including the pelvis bone of a caribou that bore deep, parallel lines etched in them.

“That is typically the mark of a stone tool used to de-flesh or disarticulate a carcass,” she told Western Digs at the time.

But the oldest of the samples that she tested was no more than 14,000 years old.

(See full coverage of her 2015 study: “Butchered Bones Found in Yukon Cave Bear Marks of Early Americans, Study Finds“)

Today, she and her team have obtained even more impressive results.

Bourgeon’s full study covered 36,000 bones from Caves 1 and 2, studying them under a high-power microscope and comparing them to other bones that had been scarred by animals, broken by freeze-thaw cycles, or damaged by rockfall or other natural sources of abrasion.

She and her team concluded that 15 bone samples bore striations that they say are “confidently attributable to human activities.”

Unlike carnivore teeth, which leave wide, shallow, U-shaped depressions, these samples bore the signature of a hand-held tool, they assert.

“Series of straight, V-shaped lines on the surface of the bones were made by stone tools used to skin animals,” said Montreal’s Dr. Ariane Burke, adviser to Bourgeon and a co-author of the new study, in a press statement.

“These are indisputable cut-marks created by humans.”

The team also conducted its own series of radiocarbon tests on six of the bones with the butchery marks.

The youngest specimen was 12,000 years old and the oldest — the lower jaw of an extinct horse, said to have marks showing where its tongue was cut out — was 24,000 years old.

Taken together, these two data points suggest that Ice Age Alaska and Yukon were not only inhabited, the team asserts, but that it was inhabited by a genetically isolated population, because 24,000 years ago, the rest of the continent was covered in glaciers and impassable.

This idea — known as the Beringia standstill hypothesis — has been proposed by some geneticists, who have found molecular clues in the DNA of indigenous groups both east and west of the Bering Strait which suggest that the Americas’ earliest settlers lingered in Eastern Beringia for thousands of years before being able to migrate south.

“Our discovery confirms the ‘Beringian standstill hypothesis,’” said Burke in the statement.

“Genetic isolation would have corresponded to geographical isolation.

“During the Last Glacial Maximum, Beringia was isolated from the rest of North America by glaciers and steppes too inhospitable for human occupation to the West.

“It was potentially a place of refuge.”

A growing body of evidence has been discovered since the ‘70s that shows a substantial human presence in the Americas before 14,000 years ago.

But there’s limited archaeological evidence to suggest that the continent was populated a full 25,000 years ago.

To that, Bourgeon and her team say, future research must focus on both archaeological and genetic evidence, specifically in the region around the Bering Strait, in order to get to the bottom of how and when the continent was populated.

“More research effort is required in Beringia clearly, to substantiate the existence of a standstill population and fully understand the prehistory of the first people of the Americas,” they write.

Read Full Post »

28436036400_cbcb3c3c5e

This map shows the area covered by a new University of Utah study that concludes a population boom and resulting scarcity of wild foods are what caused early people in eastern North America to domesticate wild food plants for the first time on the continent starting about 5,000 year ago. The triangles and names represent archaeological sites previously identified as locations where one or more of the these plants first were domesticated: squash, sunflower, marshelder and pitseed goosefoot, a relative of quinoa. The small circles are sites where radiocarbon-dated artifacts have been found, with a single circle often representing many dated artifacts. The study area includes much of eastern North America inland from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Credit: Elic Weitzel, University of Utah.

 

Original Article:

popular-archaeology.com

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH—University of Utah anthropologists counted the number of carbon-dated artifacts at archaeological sites and concluded that a population boom and scarce food explain why people in eastern North America domesticated plants for the first time on the continent about 5,000 years ago.

“Domesticated plants and animals are part of our everyday lives, so much so that we take them for granted,” says Brian Codding, senior author of the study published online August 2 by the British journal Royal Society Open Science. “But they represent a very unique thing in human history. They allowed for large numbers of people to live in one place. That ultimately set the stage for the emergence of civilization.”

Graduate student Elic Weitzel, the study’s first author, adds: “For most of human history, people lived off wild foods – whatever they could hunt or gather. It’s only relatively recently that people made this switch to a very different method of acquiring their food. It’s important to understand why that transition happened.”

The study dealt not with a full-fledged agricultural economy, but with the earlier step of domestication, when early people in eastern North America first started growing plants they had harvested in the wild, namely, squash, sunflower, marshelder and a chenopod named pitseed goosefoot, a pseudocereal grain closely related to quinoa.

Codding, an assistant professor of anthropology, says at least 11 plant domestication events have been identified in world history, starting with wheat about 11,500 years ago in the Middle East. The eastern North American plant domestication event, which began around 5,000 years ago, was the ninth of those 11 events and came after a population boom 6,900 to 5,200 years ago, he adds.

For many years, two competing theories have sought to explain the cause of plant domestication in eastern North America: First, population growth and resulting food scarcity prompted people to grow foods on which they already foraged. Second, a theory called “niche construction” or “ecosystem engineering” that basically says intentional experimentation and management during times of plenty – and not immediate necessity – led people to manage and manipulate wild plants to increase their food supply.

“We argue that human populations significantly increased prior to plant domestication in eastern North America, suggesting that people are driven to domestication when populations outstrip the supply of wild foods,” Weitzel says.

“The transition to domesticating food allowed human populations to increase drastically around the world and made our modern way of life possible,” he adds. “People start living near the fields. Whenever you’ve got sedentary communities, they start to expand. Villages expand into cities. Once you have that, you have all sorts of social changes. We really don’t see state-level society until domestication occurs.”

When early North Americans first domesticated crops

The region of eastern North America covered by the study includes most of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, and portions of Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana.

“This is the region where these plant foods were domesticated from their wild variants,” Weitzel says. “Everywhere else in North America, crops were imported from elsewhere,” particularly Mexico and Central America.

Four indigenous plant species constitute what scientists call the Eastern Agricultural Complex, which people began to domesticate about 5,000 years ago.

Previous research shows specific domestication dates were 5,025 years ago for squash at an archaeological site named Phillips Spring in Missouri, 4,840 years ago for sunflower seeds domesticated at Hayes in Tennessee, 4,400 years ago for marshelder at the Napoleon Hollow site in Illinois, and 3,800 years ago for pitseed goosefoot found in large quantities at Riverton, Illinois, along with squash, sunflower and marshelder.

Three more recent sites also have been found to contain evidence of domestication of all four species: Kentucky’s Cloudsplitter and Newt Kindigenash rockshelters, dated to 3,700 and 3,640 years ago, respectively, and the 3,400-year-old Marble Bluff site in Arkansas.

Sunflower and squash – including acorn and green and yellow summer squashes – remain important crops today, while marshelder and pitseed goosefoot are not (although the related quinoa is popular).

Deducing population swings from radiocarbon dates

“It’s really difficult to arrive at measures of prehistoric populations. So archaeologists have struggled for a long time coming up with some way of quantifying population levels when we don’t have historical records,” Weitzel says.

“People have looked at the number of sites through time, the number of artifacts through time and some of the best work has looked at the effects of population growth,” such as in the switch from a diet of tortoises to rabbits as population grew in the eastern Mediterranean during the past 50,000 years, he adds.

Codding says that in the past decade, archaeologists have expanded the use of radiocarbon-dates for artifacts to reconstruct prehistoric population histories. Weitzel says radiocarbon dates in the new study came from artifacts such as charcoal, nutshells and animal bones – all recorded in a database maintained by Canadian scientists.

The University of Utah anthropologists used these “summed radiocarbon dates” for 3,750 dated artifacts from eastern North America during the past 15,000 years.

“The assumption is that if you had more people, they left more stuff around that could be dated,” Weitzel says. “So if you have more people, you conceivably should have more radiocarbon dates.”

“We plotted the dates through time,” namely, the number of radiocarbon dates from artifacts in every 100-year period for the past 15,000 years, he adds.

The analysis indicated six periods of significant population increase or decrease during that time, including one during which population nearly doubled in eastern North America starting about 6,900 years ago and continuing apace until 5,200 years ago – not long before plant domestication began, Codding says.

Codding notes that even though plant domestication meant “these people were producing food to feed themselves and their families, they’re still hunting and foraging,” eating turtles, fish, water fowl and deer, among other animals.

The other theory

Weitzel says the concept of niche construction is that people were harvesting wild plants, and “were able to get more food from certain plants.” By manipulating the environment – such as transplanting wild plants or setting fires to create areas favorable for growth of wild food plants – they began “experimenting with these plants to see if they could grow them to be bigger or easier to collect and consume,” he adds. “That kind of experimentation then leads to domestication.”

Codding says: “The idea is that when times are good and people have plenty of food then they will experiment with plants. We say that doesn’t provide an explanation for plant domestication in eastern North America.” He believes the behavioral ecology explanation: increasing population and-or decreasing wild food resources led to plant domestication.

Source: University of Utah news release.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Among the 370 projectile points found at the site are examples of A) Midland, B) Milesand, C) Plainview, D) Lerma, E) Abasolo, F) Ventana, G) San Pedro, and H) Dátil. (Photo courtesy Gallaga et al.)

Among the 370 projectile points found at the site are examples of A) Midland, B) Milesand, C) Plainview, D) Lerma, E) Abasolo, F) Ventana, G) San Pedro, and H) Dátil. (Photo courtesy Gallaga et al.)

 

he cranium of a 12 to 15 year old girl was found just below the surface of the site. Radiocarbon analysis of three teeth dated the burial to 1360 BCE . (Photo courtesy Gallaga et al. May not be reproduced.)

he cranium of a 12 to 15 year old girl was found just below the surface of the site. Radiocarbon analysis of three teeth dated the burial to 1360 BCE . (Photo courtesy Gallaga et al. May not be reproduced.)

 

Original article:

Western digs

BY BLAKE DE PASTINO ON FEBRUARY 26, 2016

 

Archaeologists working in the borderlands of northern Mexico have uncovered a camp used by ancient hunters as much as 10,500 years ago, revealing insights into some of the earliest human history in the Greater Southwest.

On a ranch near the Santa Maria River in northern Chihuahua, researchers have unearthed more than 18,000 artifacts, including thousands of stone flakes, cores, and hammers, along with 370 projectile points, and a dozen stone ovens.

But the most surprising find has been the grave of a teenage girl, who was interred among the rocks, alone and unadorned, some 3,200 years ago.

Her remains, researchers say, may help unlock the history of the people who brought agriculture to this arid region, and who were the first known farmers of corn in the Chihuahuan Desert.

“The importance of this find is in knowing more of the early steps of humans on this land, to remind us that whatever the geographical characteristic of this region, humans were able to make a living here, to make this region their home,” said Dr. Emiliano Gallaga, who led the research.

Gallaga and his colleagues discovered the site while investigating a patch of desert about 70 kilometers [45 miles] south of the New Mexico border that was being developed for a solar energy plant.

“At this point the [energy] company had two options: leave the areas of the site untouched, or pay for a salvage project,” said Gallaga, a research fellow with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which conducted the research.

“The company choose the latter. So in the summer of 2014, we performed a one-season project where we registered the site, mapped it, collected all archaeological material, and performed several excavation units.”

fter investigating nearly 7.5 acres, the researchers found no evidence of any structures and also no ceramics.

But they did uncover 12 stone ovens, along with an incredibly dense concentration of tools and stone fragments, suggesting that the site had been used as a kind of tool-making camp intermittently over thousands of years.

The camp consisted of several separate working areas, each scattered with a variety of stone chips, cores, and tools.

In all, 18,488 artifacts were recovered, including hundreds of stone points that were fashioned in recognizable styles that date back more than 10,000 years.

“We have evidence of Late Paleoindian occupation around 8,000 BCE, based on the material we found,” Gallaga said, “particularly projectile points such as 8 Plainview points [made from around 8150-8000 BCE], 15 Midland points [8700-8500 BCE], and 3 Milnesand points [8200-7200 BCE].”

In all, he said, the 370 points represent 30 different styles, spanning the Paleoindian and Archaic periods.

But the most striking find came when the team turned its attention to a heavily eroded slope.

“When we were doing the surface collection, we noticed an interesting feature on the surface: a circle of bones coming out,” Gallaga said.

“We thought it could be a turtle shell, but we decided to make an [excavation] unit there, just in case.

“And there it was.

“We just cleaned a little bit, and a human cranium appeared.”

About 20 centimeters [about 8 inches] below the surface, the researchers uncovered the remains of a girl between 12 and 15 years old.

The circumstances of her death are unclear, her bones showing no obvious signs of trauma nor immediate evidence of disease.

She was buried in a flexed position, with no grave goods or other offerings.

Radiocarbon analysis of three of her teeth revealed that the burial dated to around 1360 BCE — a significant date range for Gallaga and his colleagues.

That’s because, about a day’s walk from the Santa Maria ranch sits an even more impressive site from the same period.

A hilltop settlement known as Cerro Juanaqueña, it’s the most important site of its kind in northern Chihuahua, Gallaga said.

In the late 1990’s, archaeologists investigated Cerro Juanaqueña and found more than 400 basalt terraces built onto its hillsides, some of them likely used for farming, and about 100 stone circles thought to be the foundations of houses.

But, most importantly, archaeologists also found the remnants of corn dated to 1150 BCE — the earliest evidence of maize ever found in Chihuahua.

No human remains were found at Cerro Juanaqueña, but if the girl discovered at Gallaga’s campsite was a member of its culture, she could hold a wealth of data about the high desert’s first known corn farmers.

“It’s possible that this burial could have some relation with Cerro Juanaqueña … that was occupied at the same time of the burial,” Gallaga said.

“Currently we are performing DNA analysis on the bones … to see if we can have a better idea where this burial fits in the region.”

Still other studies will focus on the ratios of strontium isotopes found in the girl’s teeth, which can shed light on where she was born and raised, as well as her diet.

“[Other archaeologists] would like to see if the young girl ate corn, which could be a good indicator that this site is related to Chihuahua’s Archaic Cerro [Juanaqueña] tradition,” Gallaga said.

As research continues into the life and death of the girl buried in the remote desert grave, her resting place will remain largely as it is, Gallaga reported.

“Due to the relevance of the findings, we recommended to INAH Chihuahua that they could give the permission for building the solar plant in the area, with the exception of the [camp] site,” he said.

“So it has been protected.”

“This finding is only a little piece of the puzzle of the human evolution and adaptation,” he added, “and it is important to be preserved for future generation and to be studied properly by researchers.”

 

 

Read Full Post »

IMG_2106

 

Original Article:

wildcat.arizona.edu

By Emily Hedges | Published 12/01/15 8:00am

Archaeologists at the UA School of Anthropology and the Arizona State Museum are cooking up something big for their next project. Researchers are using utility-ware pottery and cookware to learn more about migration patterns at the Homol’ovi Hopi pueblo sites.

The Homol’ovi Research Program began in 1985 as a collaboration between the UA School of Anthropology and the Arizona State Museum. Originally, the project involved working on Hopi pueblos at Homol’ovi State Park near Winslow, Arizona. The project later shifted to focus on the Chevelon Pueblo, the third largest pueblo of the Homol’ovi villages, which are believed to have been occupied from about 1280 to 1380.

According to UA anthropology Professor E. Charles Adams, the UA School of Anthropology is currently working on Rock Art Ranch, a petroglyph site located near Homol’ovi. The UA School of Anthropology hosts an archaeology field school at Rock Art Ranch every summer that is open to undergraduates and graduate students. The field school teaches students archaeological excavation techniques including survey techniques, excavation procedures and artifact identification and analysis.

“I really like the social part of it,” Adams said. “The thing I most enjoy about it is being out … with a whole group of people and getting to know each other and then being able to work together collaboratively to accomplish really great things like, you know, doing excavations and surveys.”

One of the problems encountered at the Homol’ovi site is looting of artifacts, according to Adams. Pottery hunters, whether intentionally or unintentionally, will remove artifacts from archaeological sites without documentation.

When it comes to archaeology, “context is really everything,” Claire Barker, an anthropology graduate student and research assistant, said. Without context, it is difficult for an archaeologist to analyze an artifact and determine its significance.

“Archaeology done properly is not exciting and it’s not sexy. I mean, people don’t care and that’s unfortunate,” she said. “I think that there’s a lack of understanding, and if people really knew, less people would do it.”

Barker uses utility-ware pottery from the Homol’ovi site to study social identity. According to Barker, studying utility ware is a more stable way to look at social identity.

“Your cooking pots — like what you actually cook with — are not something that you really think of as part of who you are, but that’s also fundamental to who you are,” Barker said.

In a time before pre-made pots and pans, prehistoric peoples used different pottery recipes to make their own cooking ware, according to Barker. Generally, people of the same family groups used similar recipes.

“So by looking at these recipes … you can look at relationships between people, and you can see uniformity or diversity,” Barker said.

One of the questions Barker said she seeks to answer with her research is: where did people move to Homol’ovi from? By looking at the composition of the pottery, researchers can determine whether it was locally produced or not. Barker uses the composition of utility-ware recipes from local groups of immigrants to see how many immigrants there were, where they migrated from and if they maintained a diversity of traditions after the migration.

“The moment you get into a new social climate, there may be pressure to adjust the way you decorate pottery,” Barker said. “But this stuff, the frying pan you use, is still probably not going to change.”

According to Barker, after she has finished analyzing the pottery, she will use the statistics from the analysis to look at diversity between sites and see if there is a disjunction between the decorated pottery and utility-ware pottery analyses.

“That’s when things get really interesting,” she said.

Meanwhile, Barker will be working on her new Blockbuster hit: “Indiana Jones Discusses Archaeological Context.”

Read Full Post »

Cornucopia, horn of plenty

Cornucopia, horn of plenty

Original Article:

STEPHENIE LIVINGSTON, November 18, 2015

news.fl.edu

 

It’s that time of year when children make cardboard turkeys and draw the Mayflower, while we prepare to fill our tables with stuffing and pumpkin pie the way most of us imagine the Pilgrims did at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.

But there’s just one catch, according to archaeologists at the Florida Museum of Natural History: The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving wasn’t the first.

The nation’s real first Thanksgiving took place more than 50 years earlier near the Matanzas River in St. Augustine, Florida, when Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and 800 soldiers, sailors and settlers joined local Native Americans in a feast that followed a Mass of Thanksgiving, according to Kathleen Deagan, distinguished research curator emerita of historical archaeology at the museum, located on the University of Florida campus.

Instead of flat-top hats and oversized buckles, conquistadors wore armor and colonists dressed in 16th-century Spanish garments. There wasn’t any cranberry sauce or pie — not even turkey. Instead, the meal consisted of an assortment of food, from salted pork and red wine shipped from Spain to yucca from the Caribbean, Deagan said.

“The holiday we celebrate today is really something that was invented in a sense,” she said. “By the time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the people who settled America’s first colony with Menéndez probably had children and grandchildren living there.”

UF retired history professor Michael Gannon wrote in his influential book on the subject that the event “was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land.”

This little-known chapter of history challenges the traditional Thanksgiving story, which reflects an Anglicized version of history and supports America’s colonial origins being viewed as solely, or at least primarily, British, said Gifford Waters, historical archaeology collection manager at the Florida Museum.

“The fact is, the first colony was a melting pot and the cultural interactions of the many groups of people in the colony were much more like the U.S. is today than the British colonies ever were,” Waters said. “I think the true story of the first Thanksgiving is especially important, since there is a growing Hispanic population in the U.S. and the role of the Spanish colony in La Florida is often neglected in the classroom.”

Historical eyewitness accounts describe the first Thanksgiving as a scene marked by diversity, with colonists and local Timucuan people in attendance. More than 400 artifacts left behind by the various cultural groups that made up the first colony are currently on display in the Florida Museum’s exhibit, “First Colony: Our Spanish Origins.”

Waters said the meal probably took place near the mouth of present-day Hospital Creek on the Matanzas River, where today the Mission of Nombre de Dios and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park – the site of Menéndez’ original encampment and the first colony – are located. The feast followed a Thanksgiving Mass, which Deagan said was a common practice of sailors after a tumultuous expedition.

The 68 days that it took Menéndez and his followers to get to Florida’s shore had not been easy. After leaving Spain with eight ships, the group arrived in Florida with only four. Half of the original expedition was lost to hurricanes and other hardships.

Of those who made it to Florida, whether in search of riches and improved social standing or new opportunities like owning land, all were probably thankful to be alive and on dry land, Deagan said.

“A Mass and feast of Thanksgiving was the first thing Menendez did, and he invited all of the local native people who were so curious about them,” she said.

Besides salted pork and red wine, those in attendance ate garbanzo beans, olives and hard sea biscuits. The meal may have also included Caribbean foods that were probably collected when Menéndez stopped to regroup and resupply at San Juan Puerto Rico before continuing to Florida, Deagan said. If the Timucua contributed, it would likely have been with corn, fresh fish, berries or beans, she said.

Archaeologists have not recovered any artifacts or other archaeological data clearly associated with the first Thanksgiving, although they have found remains of the types of food that would have been eaten, Waters said.

“It is very rare to be able to pin down archaeological remains with a specific event, especially something as ephemeral as a single meal,” he said.

Waters said he hopes spreading word about the original Thanksgiving will spark interest in having a more complete understanding of American history.

 

Read Full Post »

Image courtesy of Ben Potter, UAF A salmon bone is show as it is excavated from the Upward Sun River site in Alaska.

Image courtesy of Ben Potter, UAF
A salmon bone is show as it is excavated from the Upward Sun River site in Alaska.

 

mage courtesy of Ben Potter, UAF Researchers work on excavation at the Upward Sun River site in Alaska.

mage courtesy of Ben Potter, UAF
Researchers work on excavation at the Upward Sun River site in Alaska.

Original article:

By Naomi Horne

September 21, 2015

news.uaf.edu

 

Researchers in Alaska have found the earliest known evidence that Ice Age humans in North America used salmon as a food source, according to a new paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings counter traditionally held beliefs that Ice Age Paleoindians were primarily big-game hunters. They are based on analysis of 11,500-year-old chum salmon bones found by University of Alaska Fairbanks anthropologist Ben Potter and colleagues at the Upward Sun River site in Interior Alaska. Excavation of the site has revealed human dwellings, tools and human remains, as well as the salmon bones.

“Salmon fishing has deep roots, and we now know that salmon have been consumed by North American humans at least 11,500 years ago,” said lead author Carrin Halffman, a UAF anthropologist who helped analyze the fish bones with co-authors Brian Kemp of Washington State University, Potter and others.

The findings also suggest that salmon spawning runs were established much earlier and much farther north than previously thought, at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, also known as the last Ice Age.

Ancient DNA and stable isotope analysis verified the fish remains as sea-run chum salmon that migrated upriver some 1,400 kilometers from where the mouth of the Yukon River now exists. These analyses indicate that modern salmon migrations may have ancient roots, dating back to at least the end of the last Ice Age.

“We have cases where salmon become landlocked and have very different isotopic signatures than marine salmon. Combining genetic and isotopic analyses allow us to confirm the identity as chum salmon, which inhabit the area today, as well as establish their life histories,” said Potter. “Both are necessary to understand how humans used these resources.”

The salmon were found in an ancient cooking hearth in a residential structure. Fish remains pose a challenge to archaeologists because their bones are very small and fragile and typically do not preserve well. Because of these challenges, their remains are likely underrepresented in global archaeological studies and findings.

Findings show that ancient Beringian diets were broader than earlier thought and that Ice Age humans used complex strategies and specialized technology to obtain their food, Potter said. He also noted that there is no evidence to suggest that salmon runs weren’t also present in the area a few thousand years prior to the time when people were living at the Upward Sun River site. “This suggests that salmon fishing may have played a role in the early human colonization of North America.”

The excavation and analysis were funded in part by the National Science Foundation. Other contributors to the paper include UAF postdoctoral researcher Holly McKinney, Bruce Finney of Idaho State University, and Antonia Rodrigues and Dongya Yang of Simon Fraser University.

ON THE WEB:
http://www.uaf.edu/anthro/
http://www.uaf.edu/cla/

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Carrin Halffman, 90- 474-7051, cmhalffman@alaska.edu; Ben Potter, 907-474-7567, bapotter@alaska.edu; Brian Kemp, 509-335-8170, bmkemp@wsu.edu. Marmian Grimes, UAF public affairs, 907-474-7902, mlgrimes@alaska.edu.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Click on the photos above to download. A copy of the paper is available by contacting Grimes or Horne.

NH/9-21-15/054-16

Read Full Post »

A new study of prehistoric Southwestern ceramics, similar to this Ancestral Pubeloan mug from the Mesa Verde region, reveal widespread use of cacao and stomach-churning ‘black drink’. (Mesa Verde Black-on-white Mug ©2014 Crow Canyon Archaeological Center; BLM-Anasazi Heritage Center

A new study of prehistoric Southwestern ceramics, similar to this Ancestral Pubeloan mug from the Mesa Verde region, reveal widespread use of cacao and stomach-churning ‘black drink’. (Mesa Verde Black-on-white Mug ©2014 Crow Canyon Archaeological Center; BLM-Anasazi Heritage Center

Original article:

POSTED BY BLAKE DE PASTINO ON SEPTEMBER 8, 2015

western digs

Stimulating drinks made from exotic plants, like the cocoa tree and a type of southern holly, were consumed much more widely across the prehistoric Southwest than was thought, according to new research.

A recent study — the largest of its kind ever conducted — analyzed nearly 200 samples of pottery from Southwestern archaeological sites, ranging from Colorado to Chihuahua and spanning 650 years of human occupation.

This is the first evidence that the Ancestral Puebloans and other Southwestern cultures consumed the highly caffeinated Ilex drinks.

Until now, the use of ‘black drink’ had mainly been associated with distant cultures in the American Midwest and South, such as the Mississippian metropolis of Cahokia, where it was drunk as part of purging rituals, or for stimulating trance-like states.

Moreover, making both cocoa and ‘black drink’ required plants that grew in far-off climates, researchers say, indicating that the Southwest was part of an ancient ‘caffeine trade network’ that extended from the foothills of the Rockies to the heart of Mexico.

“There are no known plants in the Southwest or Northwestern Mexico that have caffeine,” said Dr. Patricia Crown, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico who led the study.

The results revealed that more than 20 percent of the ceramics contained traces of either cocoa or a potent concoction known as ‘black drink,’ made from yaupon holly, known to scientists as Ilex vomitoria.
“So these caffeinated drinks required acquiring — through exchange or direct acquisition — materials from a distance: Mesoamerica, for either plant, or perhaps the Gulf Coast for the holly.”

Crown was one of the researchers who, in 2009, first discovered traces of cocoa — or cacao — in pottery excavated from New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon.

It was a striking reminder of the great economic reach of the Ancestral Puebloans, whose sites had already turned up other Mesoamerican items, like copper bells and remains of scarlet macaws.

Following that find, Crown and colleague W. Jeffrey Hurst, senior scientist with the Hershey Company, wanted to learn how widespread the use of cocoa was throughout the pre-contact Southwest.

“We were interested in determining the spatial and temporal extent of cacao use in the Southwest and Mexican Northwest,” she said.

“We began by looking at other contemporaneous sites in Chaco, then sites outside Chaco but related to it, then sites with evidence for exchange in Mesoamerican goods in other areas, and then sites that filled in geographic areas or time periods but didn’t necessarily have other evidence for Mesoamerican exchange.”

In all, the new study analyzed 177 pottery sherds from 18 different sites, ranging in age from the year 750 to 1400. They included monuments like Chaco’s Chetro Ketl, the ancient Hohokam settlement in Arizona known as Snaketown, and more recently studied sites like Windy Knob in southwestern Colorado.

Using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, the researchers then analyzed the sherds for traces of chemicals known as methylxanthines — stimulants that include caffeine, theobromine and theophylline, which are found in cacao and Ilex vomitoria, though in different proportions.

The results, Crown said, were surprising.

“When we started getting results … we realized that not all of them were clearly cacao,” she said.

“Many [of the results] had high caffeine [levels], which is not characteristic of cacao, and some had none of the other methylxanthines — theobromine and theophylline — that characterize cacao.

“So we had to determine what else those samples could be if they weren’t cacao.”

After comparing those residues with ones found in pottery fragments from around Cahokia, where Ilex-based beverages were known to have been used, Crown and Hurst determined that the unusual chemical signatures were likely those of ‘black drink.’

“We fully expected to see evidence for cacao — or not — in the samples,” Crown added.

“We were surprised to find results that suggested that some samples had caffeinated drinks that were not cacao.”

In addition to showing that holly-based drinks were likely used in the pre-Hispanic Southwest, this new analysis reveals just how widespread the consumption of caffeine was in the region.

Of the 177 pottery samples — 40 of them, or 22 percent — turned up traces of either cacao or Ilex, even in the sherds from communities that were not known to have Mesoamerican artifacts, or other signs of influence from far-flung cultures.

This, Crown noted, indicates that the Ancestral Puebloans, the Hohokam, and other Southwestern groups not only traded with the peoples of Mesoamerica and the Gulf Coast, they had prolonged and sustained contact with them.

“Once made into drinks, these plants were consumed,” she said. “So, unlike some other exchanged items, if they were an important part of life in the Southwest, or Northwestern Mexico, there had to be an ongoing supply, even if they were consumed only sporadically.

“This created social and economic relationships with distant populations,” she added.

“Individuals who served these drinks might have created more local relationships and obligations with the people who drank them in feasts or rituals or political contexts.

“So part of the takeaway is that special drinks of these sorts tell us something about relationships with distant areas, and also within local groups.”

Crown and Hurst report their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: