Hunter-Gatherer Technologies

Fundamentally, archaeology is the study of the human past through material culture and their technologies. As an archaeologist, I’m interested in both the technical details of how people made and used artifacts, and how these materials were integrated into daily life. Through archaeology we can learn how people move around, share ideas and trace those activities through sourcing materials and technology. Additionally, pottery and food processing (including cooking methods) is particularly interesting to me. Food processing are central to the human experience and I am interested in bringing more attention to the technology associated with food-ways. 

Clay Technologies and Past Foodways in the Pacific Northwest

Worldwide, the emergence of baked clay and ceramic technology is traditionally associated with increasingly sedentary lifestyles and the development of agriculture in antiquity. High mobility and low population, characteristics of most hunter-gatherer groups, did not favor the production of ceramics.  Nevertheless, various hunter-gatherer groups developed or adopted ceramic technology in diverse environmental settings. While research on this topic is expanding, little is known about the character and antiquity of clay and ceramic technology in the Pacific Northwest.  This pilot research project is aimed at addressing this problem and setting the stage for future research through grey literature review and collections research at various regional repositories.  The focus is on establishing the temporal and geographic distribution of clay and ceramic technology across the Pacific Northwest.   Current project activities include: 1) gathering, analyzing, and synthesizing published and unpublished data on clay and fired clay/ceramic archaeological materials from across the PNW, 2) identifying artifact collections appropriate for future research, and 3) establishing key community connections for future research.

Diet, Food Processing, and the Development of Arctic Aquatic Adaptations

Why did northern hunter gatherers adopt pottery technology given the challenges of making pottery in arctic and sub-arctic environments?  Archaeologists have offered various hypotheses such as: the adoption of ceramic technology was related to dietary change, or an increased need for storage, and/or a need for the efficiency ceramic cooking vessels offer over other types of container technology.

In northern Alaska, the initial adoption of ceramic technology about 2800 years ago coincides with evidence of increased reliance on maritime resources and an increase in residential sedentism.  It is possible that an expansion of diet breadth that included the incorporation of more marine foods led northern Alaskans to invest in ceramic technology.

As  first step towards investigating this hypothesis, I am working with Shannon Tushingham (Washington State University) and Tammy Buonasera (Arizona State University) to conduct lipid and isotopic analysis of ceramics from northwest Alaska.  The results of this project are forthcoming.

Past Beringian Cultural Exchange and Interaction: Study of Ceramic Technology

Beringia was a region of intense interaction (human, animal, plant, etc.) for millennia.  This region was a critical pathway for the peopling of North America and has since continued to be a source of ideas, technology, and human movement for thousands of years.  While archaeologists have established broader past patterns of interaction and migration, many questions remain about the ways that people expanded, contracted, and invested in social networks in relationship to external forces of cultural change.  This research is directed at studying pre-contact cultural interaction in Beringia through analysis of archaeological ceramic technology.

This work will: 1) expand the temporal and geographic scope of prior work to include a greater area of Beringia, 2) focus on key locales for understanding interaction, e.g.. islands of the Bering Strait and Chukotka, and 3) build connections with Russian-based colleagues and Bering Strait communities interested in cultural exchange, interaction, and past technologies.

Community Engagement is a crucial part of the future of this research. We plan to continue to build existing connections with Bering Strait communities and assess interest in future community-based collaborative research, and collaborate with Russian colleagues to compare and share knowledge about Beringian ceramics and past interaction networks. We want to facilitate exchange between Russian and American archaeologists, and between archaeologists and local communities.  Collaboration between archaeologists in Russia and Alaska is limited primarily to study of PaleoIndian archaeology rather than Ancestral Iñupiat and Yupiit cultures.  The collaborative research and publication proposed here is a critical step towards further cooperative work.