Paleoenvironmental Analyses from Nunalleq, Alaska Illustrate a Novel Means to Date Pre-Inuit and Inuit Archaeology

Paul M. Ledger and Véronique Forbes

Abstract

Arctic archaeology suffers from a series of unfortunate conjunctures that make accurate and reliable dating of the prehistory of circumpolar North America problematic. Through the late-prehistoric Yup’ik site of Nunalleq, this paper explores a novel approach to dating archaeological sites in the circumpolar north. Presenting data from a peat sequence associated with the archaeological site, we examine if a combination of paleoenvironmental analyses (new insect, plant macrofossil and macroscopic charcoal data, and previously published palynological data), radiocarbon dating, and Bayesian modeling can generate high-resolution chronologies for archaeological sites. The results indicate that archaeological events are resolvable in the paleoenvironmental record and that the timing of such events illustrates a striking concordance with those derived from archaeological data. This paper highlights and recommends how paleoenvironmental analyses can be deployed towards improving the chronologies of Inuit and pre-Inuit archaeology.

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