Three Phases of Initial Human Colonization in Southern Alaska

Author(s): Brian Wygal

Year: 2015


Once heavily glaciated during the Late Pleistocene, southern Alaska became ice-free just as the First Americans were entering the Bering Land Bridge. This makes the Susitna River in Southcentral Alaska a perfect laboratory for understanding how and why small-scale foraging societies spread throughout Beringia and ultimately the New World. While first explorers undoubtedly made decisions based on previous experience, initial occupants probably had different cultural expectations of their environment and may have moved on to the next valley before becoming intimately familiar with any single place. It is this sense of wanderlust that is so intriguing about Late Pleistocene foragers. In unfamiliar places, especially high latitude locations, cultures adapted by mapping onto large terrestrial herbivores with frequent residential moves because specific knowledge of the landscape had not yet accumulated enough to inform more sedentary economies. Exploration of uncharted valleys must have been routine for these early Alaskans but it rarely left an archaeological trace. At the Trapper Creek Overlook site, three phases of the settlement process are represented archaeologically including exploration, pioneering, and finally colonization of southern Alaska.

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Cite this Record

Three Phases of Initial Human Colonization in Southern Alaska. Brian Wygal. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394955)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;