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13,000 Years of Obsidian Prospecting in Eastern Beringia: A Status Report on Obsidian Source Studies in Alaska and Yukon

Author(s): Jeffrey Rasic ; Joshua Reuther ; P. Gregory Hare ; Robert J. Speakman

Year: 2017

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The archaeological record of Eastern Beringia plays an important role in understanding global human dispersals and settlement, and is a proving ground for testing ideas about high latitude hunter-gatherer land use, technology, and socioeconomic interaction. Obsidian provenance studies provide an excellent means to address these issues. Since 2006 we have compiled, organized and generated new obsidian geochemical analyses for more than 11,000 artifacts from 1200 sites across Alaska and Yukon Territory using portable X-ray fluorescence (PXRF) and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (LA-ICP-MS). More than 60 geochemically distinct obsidian groups have been defined, and the major geological sources of obsidian have been pinpointed. A well-developed framework for successful provenance analysis is now available. Here we describe the major obsidian sources for the region and recommend a standardized terminology for source locations and geochemical groups. We share key insights about prehistoric raw material procurement and distribution gained from this exceptionally large and geographically expansive dataset, including 1) a surprisingly rapid pace of landscape learning and identification of obsidian sources upon initial human colonization in each sub-region, and 2) the tremendous influence raw material package size exerts on the distribution extent of obsidian from a particular source.

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13,000 Years of Obsidian Prospecting in Eastern Beringia: A Status Report on Obsidian Source Studies in Alaska and Yukon. Jeffrey Rasic, Joshua Reuther, P. Gregory Hare, Robert J. Speakman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428923)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16683

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America