Paleoarctic

2017 Alaska Archaeology Month Paleoarctic Poster
Click to download the 2017 Alaska Archaeology Month Paleoarctic Poster

First Alaskans, First Americans

The Paleoarctic were the very first humans to ever set foot in North America. During the final millenia of the Earth's last Ice Age, the Paleoarctic people moved from eastern Siberia to Alaska's outermost edge—about 1,000 miles across the Bering Land Bridge (also known as Beringia), a landscape that doesn't exist anymore because it's since been engulfed by the sea.
The only humans in an entirely new landscape, the Paleoarctic people quickly answered the question of how to survive by mastering brief windows of seasonal abundance: fall berries and bison, wapiti (elk), caribou, and Dall's sheep and spring waterfowl. During the near-total darkness of winter, they augmented the bounty of other seasons with the warmth-giving furs of trapped wolf, fox, and marmots.
But in the day-long brightness of summer, they made the most of the abundant salmon that choked Alaska's rivers, becoming the first in a long line of Alaskans that would use fish as a primary food source. Adding fishing to their arsenal of food skills helped the Paleoarctic people thrive for nearly 6,000 years and successfully spread across the breadth of Alaska, taking advantage of its rivers along the way.
 

Toolmaking

Sophisticated tool technology was essential to exploit Alaska's resources. But arguably the Paleoarctic people's greatest innovation was the microblade. Tiny, sharp slivers of stone - among the first standardized, interchangeable tool parts - fit snugly into tough but flexible caribou antler handles, together a strong and deadly combination.
 
2017 Alaska Archaeology Month Paleoarctic Poster Toolmaking Drawing
Drawing of a Paleoarctic tool using a stone microblade and caribou antler projectile point
 

Resources by Season

For six millenia, the Paleoarctic people took advantage of the most well-stocked smorgasbord Alaska's ever seen - now-disappeared animals such as bison, horse, wapiti (elk), plus still-native creatures like swan, hare, grouse, and caribou.
 
2017 Alaska Archaeology Month Paleoarctic Poster Resource Phenology
Infographic depicting daylight hours each month of the year and timespan of different resources available throughout the year.

Trapping Furbearers: November-February

Wolves, foxes, wolverines. 5-9 hours of daylight

Big Game Hunting: January-March and August-September

Bison, elk, caribou. 5-12 and 13-16 hours of daylight

Waterfowl Hunting: April-May

Geese, ducks, swans. 15-18 hours of daylight

Fishing: June-August

Salmon, burbot, grayling. 16-20 hours of daylight

Berry Gathering: August-September

Blueberry, cloudberry, crowberry. 13-16 hours of daylight

Last updated: April 5, 2017

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