Credit: Ben A. Potter/Universty of Alaska, Fairbanks and Past Horizons
It's with great pleasure that I can now be excited publically about this research (alas, a year old), published in America's answer to Nature, Science. This is very cool news for the Palaeo-Indian archaeologists who read SA.
It tells of excavating a wood-framed house-pit (very much like the ones I mentioned in a recent post) that was occupied 11,500 years ago in eastern Beringia, at the time the world was awakening from the last big chill of the Pleistocene. It's not the first time that archaeologists have recovered archaeological remains in that part of the world, nor is it the first time they've found human remains of that antiquity in that biome. However, to my knowledge this is the first time that anyone's found good evidence of a substantial residential structure from that epoch--and a house-pit, no less!
|From Potter et al. (2011) Science|
This Tanana River discovery is evidence of one thing. The people who built this structure were there to stay. They were not semi-nomadic like the ethnographic Inuit people of the high north latitudes. How can I say that? Well, I'll admit some might think it's a bit of a reach. But, practically speaking, pithouses are capable of sustaining a comfortable living space year 'round. There'd be no point in raising the roof on one of these structures if the people weren't sedentary. And, if sedentary, they were exploiting an ecosystem that provided abundant and predictable food sources year 'round. It would have been a perfect substrate for development of materially complex societies that would soon infiltrate the vast areas south of the ice sheets, and leave as their signature a symbol drawn from their recent cultural roots. I'm talking about the fluted points of the early PaleoIndian period in the lower 48 and lower, the ultimate expression of which was the Clovis 'point'.
|Although it's to be found in various places on the web, I'm pretty sure that this was originally in National Geographic. However, in the present case I found this image at the University of Montana web site.|