Soils, plants and animals in the making of hunter-gatherer pottery in coastal Alaska

Author(s): James Conolly; Ana Jorge; Rick Knecht

Year: 2015


Explorations of human-environmental interactions in prehistoric Alaska tend to draw on biological, botanical and faunal data. Artefacts have often received much less attention beyond links to subsistence concerns and the gathering of additional paleoenvironmental information (e.g. wood and grass species). Pottery, in particular, has featured in such discussions only in regards to the processing of foodstuffs: both its suitability for particular cooking methods and the substances it may have contained. Yet, ceramic technologies can be viewed in terms of people’s engagement with the environment and transmission of environmental knowledge as well as use of material resources. Ongoing study of pottery assemblages from the late prehistoric site of Nunalleq shows that ceramic vessels were often tempered with grasses, while lamps were often tempered with fur or not tempered at all. In the tundra and highly dynamic deltaic landscape of this part of Alaska, sourcing for clay required great understanding of the land and its sharp seasonal changes. This paper will argue that detailed ceramic technological studies can provide the opportunity to further explore interactions between prehistoric arctic hunter-gatherers and their environment.

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Cite this Record

Soils, plants and animals in the making of hunter-gatherer pottery in coastal Alaska. Ana Jorge, James Conolly, Rick Knecht. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395833)

Spatial Coverage

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