Hunter-Gatherer Technologies

Fundamentally, archaeology is the study of the human past through material culture and their technologies. As an archaeologist, I am 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. In addition, food processing is central to the human experience and I am interested in bringing more attention to the technology associated with foodways. 

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.

We are working with community partners in Nome, Kotzebue, and the surrounding areas. Together, we are studying past and present foodways, drawing information and data from a variety of sources. Project activities include:

  • Studying how ancestral pottery was made and used through petrography and other archaeological methods
  • Experimenting with making and using pottery that we make using the same materials and techniques we see in ancient pottery
  • Learning what food was cooked in ancient pottery through lipid and isotopic analysis of pottery and sediment residues, which we also compare to a database of modern northern animal lipid and isotopic data we created with the support of northwest Alaskan subsistence hunters
  • Engaging with communities to learn more about pottery making and use through experiential learning workshops and the creation of a community cookbook

This project is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation #1749078.

More information available on the project page.

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

This project is on-going, and you can find more details here.