Under the direction of Dr. David Meltzer, Mr. Michael Bever will collect data for his doctoral dissertation. The goal of his research is to characterize the earliest archaeological assemblages in Alaska and compare them to relevant materials both from Eastern Asia and the continental United States. While archaeologists know the New World was originally populated near the end of the last ice age by Asian migrants who crossed the Bering Land Bridge the exact route and timing of this process in unknown. Because of its geographical proximity to Asia, Alaska should contain relevant archaeological information and it appears that such sites are present. For this time period the primary materials recovered through excavation are stone tools and the lithic waste projects associated with their manufacture. Through stylistic and technological comparison archaeologists attempt to characterize assemblages and then compare similarities and differences among them. The picture for early Alaska is complicated by the fact that many assemblages are stratigraphically mixed and contain lithics from different time periods which are jumbled together. Even for intact sites however the patterns appear anomalous because materials found associated do not occur together in either Asia or further South. Some Alaskan sites for example contain large lancolate spear points which are characteristic of the earliest archaeological occurrences in the continental US. However these same Alaskan sites also have very specific types of small tools which are unique. In his research Mr. Bever will analyze a series of stratigraphically intact early Alaskan assemblages. Rather than concentrate, as most researchers do, on the form of the finished stone tools, he will examine the technological processes involved in tool production. This will provide a unique body of information with significant cultural content. He will first determine whether the Alaskan sites share enough similarities to be considered as a single cultural unit and then compare these materials to remains from both the West and South. This research is important for several reasons. It will provide a body of evidence of interest to many archaeologists. It will, hopefully, shed new light on the peopling of North America and assist in training a promising young scientist.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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John E. Yellen
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Southern Methodist University
United States
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