Implications of the Promontory, Dismal River, and Franktown Archaeological Records for Apachean Prehistory

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Earlier investigators—including Julian Steward, Waldo Wedel, Jim and Dee Gunnerson, and Mel Aikens—each voiced the suspicion that the Promontory Culture and the Dismal River Aspect reflected the presence of Proto-Apachean populations in the eastern Great Basin and Central Plains. The Gunnersons also saw notable similarities linking the two archaeological constructs. Although these suspicions saw relatively little subsequent attention, both archaeological records have received more intensive study in recent years. At the same time, linguistic, genetic and anthropological studies have provided ever sharper focus for what we should expect for migrating ancestral Apachean populations in an era when opportunities for hunter-gatherers expanded. Papers in this session will explore search images developed from interdisciplinary perspectives for Proto-Apachean archaeological records, along with reports on renewed investigations of key sites, high resolution chronologies, a focus on perishable artifacts (like moccasins) more apt to reflect cultural identity than lithic assemblages, a synthesis of the footwear "landscape" in late prehistoric period Great Basin and Plains records, insights into demography, a better understanding of subsistence activities and paleoenvironments through isotopic and zooarchaeological analyses, evidence of interaction with surrounding societies, and a clearer picture of ceramic assemblages derived from formal studies and sherd geochemistry.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-16 of 16)

  • Documents (16)

  • Art in the Time of Promontory Cave: Enhancement of Rock Art Figures Using DStretch (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrew D. Lints. John W. Ives.

    While the Promontory caves are well known for their preservation of perishable cultural materials, the red-ochre pictographs inside Promontory Cave 1 have attracted less attention. The conditions within the cave provided a ‘safe haven’ for organic artifacts, but the pictographs themselves have varying degrees of visibility, from quite good to poor. Archaeologists have relied solely upon descriptions made by Julian Steward during his 1930s work. Advancements in digital imagery and rock art...

  • Bison ecology and pre-contact human land use at the Promontory Caves (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jessica Metcalfe. Vandy Bowyer.

    Promontory people were proficient bison hunters with a sophisticated understanding of bison ecology. In contrast, modern researchers know relatively little about pre-contact bison ecology in the Great Basin. We combine botanical analysis of dung and isotopic analysis of various substrates (dung, hair, hide, bone) to reconstruct ancient landscapes and bison behaviour during the Promontory occupation. Carbon isotope compositions indicate that a C3-dominated environment existed at the Promontory...

  • The Canine Question: The Role of Dog Husbandry in Athapaskan Migration and Plains-Pueblo Exchange (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only B. Sunday Eiselt.

    Plains-Pueblo Exchange is the study of interregional interactions during the Protohistoric Period (ca. AD 1450 to 1700) between the people and cultures of the Southern Plains and the eastern, frontier Pueblo communities associated with the Rio Grande Valley and its tributaries. Plains-Pueblo research has focused generally on issues of culture contact, culture history, and social evolutionary trajectories leading up to European Colonization, but has skirted the increasingly obvious fact that...

  • The Dismal River Complex and the Continuing Debate of Early Apachean Presence on the Central Great Plains (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Hill. Sarah Trabert. Margaret Beck.

    Great Plains Apachean groups have a strong documentary presence between the mid-1500s to the early 1700s, but the archaeological record of these groups is poorly understood. Early researchers such as James Gunnerson and Waldo Wedel argued strongly that Dismal River sites represented the earliest expression for Apachean groups in the Central Great Plains. These claims are still widely accepted, in part because there is little recent work to contradict them. The exciting research on early Navajo...

  • Follow the Women: Ceramics and Post-Fremont Ethnogenesis (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gabriel Yanicki.

    The Promontory Gray ceramic type is problematic within the narrative of proto-Apacheans at the Promontory Caves: progenitor populations of Subarctic Dene did not make or use pottery. A solution to this dilemma is readily evident in both oral traditions and genetic studies that show large-scale recruitment of women into founding proto-Apachean populations. Ceramics, normally an aspect of women’s craft production, likely arrived with the women who joined them. Early dates for the peak of...

  • Fragile, Organic Artifacts from Alpine Ice in the Athapaskan Homeland, Southern Yukon, Canada (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only P. Gregory Hare. Christian D. Thomas.

    Since the late 1990’s, a significant collection of fragile, organic artifacts has been collected from melting alpine ice patches in southern Yukon, Canada. The ice patch study area is in the Athapaskan homeland, and was an area strongly impacted by the White River Ash event, ca. 1200 yBP, which possibly triggered southward migrations of some Athapaskan speakers. This paper will present an overview of the Yukon ice patch project and will include a description of organic hunting artifacts...

  • Glimpses of Promontory Tradition Settlement Practices and Social Networks: The Ceramic and Faunal Assemblages from Site 10-Oa-275 (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brooke Arkush.

    The West Fork Rock Creek site (10-Oa-275) is a late prehistoric-aged seasonal camp in southeastern Idaho containing 11 occupational surfaces dating between A.D. 750 and 1800. Several living floors and non living floor deposits contain both Promontory Gray and Great Salt Lake Gray ceramics, along with the butchered remains of bison and pronghorn. This paper explores associations between site occupants and Promontory groups to the south, especially those of the Promontory Peninsula, and considers...

  • Insights into Prehistoric Footwear Landscapes (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Billinger. John W. Ives.

    In earlier research, we used Promontory moccasins dimensions to chart predictable relationships concerning moccasin length, foot length, stature and age. A high proportion (83%) of the discarded moccasins in the Promontory caves came from children and subadults. While a discard bias concerning adults males (more likely to discard moccasins outside of domestic contexts) must be acknowledged, the predominance of children and subadults suggested the presence of a growing population, consistent with...

  • Linguistic relationships between the Apachean sub-group and Northern Athapaskan (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sally Rice. Conor Snoek. Michaela Stang.

    Linguistic evidence has long played an important role in determining the relationship of Apachean peoples to Northern Athapaskans (Sapir 1936). While Apachean membership within the larger Athapaskan family is firmly established, the more precise determination of their linguistic affiliation to Northern Athapaskan linguistic groups has proved more difficult (Rice 2012). The reasons for this difficulty arose chiefly from the lack of available data and the limitations in the power of analytic...

  • On the Road to Becoming Apache: The Western Dismal River Culture at the Plains/Foothills Margin (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sean P. Larmore. Kevin P. Gilmore.

    Discovery of new sites as well as the reanalysis of museum collections over the last 15 years has renewed focus on the Western Dismal River (WDR) culture, which we hypothesize represents the ancestral Apachean occupation of the western margin of the Great Plains and into the foothills and high country of the Rocky Mountains, A.D. 1300-1650. Once thought to represent the initial entry of ancestral Apache in the region during the initial Na-Dene diaspora from the north, this culture is now...

  • People and Animals on the Move: Insights from the Promontory Caves on Proto-Apachaean Faunal Use and Hunting Practices (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lindsay Johansson.

    The faunal assemblages recovered from the Promontory Caves by Julian Steward, and more recently by John Ives and Joel Janetski, suggest that the subsistence practices, hunting patterns, and mobility strategies of those using the caves ca. AD 1100 to 1300 differed greatly from those of later peoples who used similar ceramics in the same region. While there are many potential explanations for these differences, this paper uses faunal data to argue that large game hunting, together with the...

  • Population Size and Structure in the A.D. 13th Century Occupation of Promontory Cave 1 (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Courtney Lakevold. Jennifer Hallson.

    The extraordinary preservation and narrow time frame (A.D. 1240-1290) for the occupation of Promontory Cave 1 on Great Salt Lake allow for unusual insights into the population and demography of its Promontory Culture inhabitants. We use two methods to determine population size. First, with accurate data on the habitable space in Cave 1, we calculate space needs per person from ethnographic accounts of Western North American hunter-gatherer groups in order to estimate likely group size. Second,...

  • The Promontory Caves Plant Macrofossil Record (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Rhode.

    The dry deposits in Promontory Caves #1 and #2, northern Utah, contain abundant well-preserved plant materials related to the late prehistoric occupations there. Much of the plant macrofossil record in both caves, especially Cave #1, represents the manufacture of textiles, in particular the production of bulrush matting. Plant remains attributable to dietary use constitute a small part of the overall assemblage, consistent with the negligible evidence of plant food processing such as milling...

  • Promontory Culture in Eastern Colorado: Franktown Cave and Early Proto-Apachean Migration (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kevin P. Gilmore. Derek Hamilton. John W. Ives.

    Similarities between contemporaneous occupations from the Promontory Caves in Utah and Franktown Cave in eastern Colorado provide evidence of a pre-A.D. 1300 migration of proto-Apachean speakers into the Rocky Mountain west using both Intermontane and Plains margin migration routes. Bayesian modeling of Promontory Culture AMS dates from Franktown Cave suggests a 40-85 year occupation starting in the early A.D. 13th century that likely overlaps the modeled 25-55 year occupation of Promontory Cave...

  • The Promontory Phase in the Eastern Great Basin (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joel Janetski.

    Julian Steward found a distinctive culture in the uppermost levels of several caves on the north shore of the Great Salt Lake and labeled it Promontory after the low range of mountains containing the caves. Based on stratigraphy, material diagnostics and findings elsewhere along the Wasatch Front, he placed the Promontory culture subsequent to the Puebloan (Fremont) and prior to the Shoshone presence. Steward recognized the possibility that these recent cave occupants were Athapaskan speakers...

  • Seeking Congruency—Search Images, Archaeological Records, and Apachean Origins (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John W. Ives.

    Apachean prehistory presents a significant conundrum: remarkably resilient and pragmatic people, Athapaskan speakers consistently adopted many elements of the ceremonial life and material culture of their neighbors, making for profound archaeological challenges. How do we truly know when an archaeological record was created by Proto-Apachean ancestors? The best response to this challenge is to draw upon the independent strengths of anthropological, linguistic and genetic studies to develop a...