Unresolved Questions about Site Formation, Provenience, and the Impact of Natural Processes on Bone at the Bluefish Caves, Yukon Territory

Kathryn E. Krasinski and John C. Blong

Abstract

Recent reanalysis of material excavated from the Bluefish Caves, Yukon Territory claims to have identified culturally modified bone dating to 24,000 cal. BP, thereby providing evidence for continuous human occupation of eastern Beringia from the Last Glacial Maximum. However, the recent research largely ignores the history of criticisms of the site and leaves outstanding questions about the site context, associations of lithic artifacts and Last Glacial Maximum radiocarbon dates, and the impact of natural processes on the faunal assemblage, and therefore, how the site fits into the broader Beringian archaeological record. This paper critically analyzes the archaeological record from Bluefish Caves by focusing on evidence for significantly disturbed archaeological contexts and alteration of bone by nonanthropogenic processes. We offer alternative hypotheses explaining the archaeological record at Bluefish Caves based on published data that were not considered in the recent reanalysis. These alternative hypotheses must be addressed before Bluefish Caves can be considered evidence for a Last Glacial Maximum occupation of Beringia. Bluefish Caves remains provocative but unconvincing archaeological evidence for the Beringian Standstill supported by genetic data.

  • Both authors contributed equally to this work.

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