The Crucible of Early to Mid-Holocene Climate in Northern Alaska: Does Northern Archaic Represent the People of the Spreading Forest?

Owen K. Mason and Nancy H. Bigelow


The Archaic stage was defined as a cultural response to post-Pleistocene landscapes dominated by trees. The Early Holocene produced an open landscape susceptible to colluviation, flooding, and gullying thus placing severe constraints on archaeological site preservation. The paleo-environment surrounding the development of the Northern Archaic can be reconstructed from pan-Alaska proxy records of flooding, loess fall, and soil formation at Onion Portage and Tingmiukpuk, and using a variety of studies of lake levels, glacial expansions, and slope activations, supplemented by loess and dune stratigraphy from the Tanana and Nenana valleys. The development of the Northern Archaic correlates with the retreat of the treeline, but may be inversely related to the development of peatland and forest landscapes at 7 kya in that the treeless Brooks Range attracted Archaic peoples north as the sphagnum peatland developed in the interior.

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