Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • Paul M. Ledger (a1), Véronique Forbes (a2) (a3), Edouard Masson-Maclean (a1), Charlotta Hillerdal (a1), W. Derek Hamilton (a4), Ellen McManus-Fry (a1), Ana Jorge (a1), Kate Britton (a5) (a6) and Richard A. Knecht (a1)...


This article presents the results of a program of radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modeling from the precontact Yup'ik site of Nunalleq (GDN-248) in subarctic southwestern Alaska. Nunalleq is deeply stratified, presenting a robust relative chronological framework of well-defined individual house floors abundant in ecofacts suitable for radiocarbon dating. Capitalizing on this potential, we present the results of one of the first applications of Bayesian statistical modeling of radiocarbon data from an archaeological site in the North American Arctic. Using these methods, we demonstrate that it is possible to generate robust, high-resolution chronological models from Arctic archaeology. Radiocarbon dates, procured prior to the program of dating and modeling presented here, suggested an approximately three-century duration of occupation at the site. The results of Bayesian modeling nuance this interpretation. While it is possible that there may have been activity for almost three centuries (beginning in the late fourteenth century), occupation of the dwelling complex, which dominates the site, was more likely to have endured for no more than a century. The results presented here suggest that the occupation of Nunalleq likely encompassed three generations beginning cal AD 1570–1630 before being curtailed by conflict around cal AD 1645–1675.

En este artículo se presentan los resultados de un programa de datación radiocarbónica y modelización bayesiana del sitio de Nunalleq, un yacimiento Yup'ik pre-contacto en el sudoeste sub-ártico de Alaska. Nunalleq es un yacimiento fuertemente estratificado que presenta una secuencia ocupacional compleja consistente en una serie de pisos de habitación individualizados, todos ellos contenientes abundantes ecofactos susceptibles de ser datados por radiocarbono. Explotando ese potencial, presentamos los resultados de una de las primeras aplicaciones de la modelización estadística bayesiana sobre datos radiocarbónicos para un yacimiento arqueológico del Ártico norteamericano. A través del uso de estos métodos demostramos que es posible generar modelos cronológicos consistentes y de alta resolución a partir de la arqueología del Ártico. Datos radiocarbónicos anteriores sugerían una duración de aproximadamente tres siglos para la ocupación del yacimiento. Los resultados de la modelización bayesiana matizan esta interpretación. Si bien es posible que haya habido actividad durante casi tres siglos (comenzando a finales del siglo catorce), parece más probable que la ocupación del complejo habitacional, mismo que domina el yacimiento, no haya durado más de un siglo. Los resultados expuestos en este trabajo sugieren que la ocupación de Nunalleq probablemente haya abarcado tres generaciones, comenzando en 1570–1630 cal dC y siendo truncada por un episodio bélico en torno a 1645–1675 cal dC.


Corresponding author

(, corresponding author)


Hide All
Bayliss, Alex 2009 Rolling Out the Revolution: Using Radiocarbon Dating in Archaeology. Radiocarbon 51:123147.
Bayliss, Alex 2015 Quality in Bayesian Chronological Models in Archaeology. World Archaeology 47:677700.
Bayliss, Alex, Ramsey, Christopher Bronk, der Plicht, Johannes van, and Whittle, Alasdair 2007 Bradshaw and Bayes: Towards a Timetable for the Neolithic. Cambridge Archaeology Journal 17:128.
Black, Lydia 1984 The Yupik of Western Alaska and Russian Impact. Études/Inuit/Studies 8:2143.
Britton, Kate, McManus-Fry, Ellen, Nehlich, Olaf, Richards, Mike P., Ledger, Paul M., and Knecht, Richard A. 2016 Stable Carbon, Nitrogen and Sulphur Isotope Analysis of Permafrost Preserved Human Hair from Rescue Excavations (2009, 2010) at the Precontact Site of Nunalleq, Alaska. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. DOI:10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.04.015, accessed January 31, 2018.
Bronk Ramsey, Christopher 1995 Radiocarbon Calibration and Analysis of Stratigraphy: The OxCal Program. Radiocarbon 37:425430.
Bronk Ramsey, Christopher 1998 Probability and Dating. Radiocarbon 40:461474.
Bronk Ramsey, Christopher 2001 Development of the Radiocarbon Calibration Program. Radiocarbon 43:355363.
Bronk Ramsey, Christopher 2009 Bayesian Analysis of Radiocarbon Dates. Radiocarbon 51:337360.
Bronk Ramsey, Christopher 2017 OxCal Application. Electronic document,, accessed January 31, 2018.
Darwent, John, Darwent, Christyann, Eldridge, Kelly A., and Miszaniec, Jason I. 2017 Recent Archaeological Investigations near the Native Village of Shaktoolik, Norton Sound, Alaska. Arctic 69:116.
Dumond, Don E., and Griffin, Dennis G. 2002 Measurements of the Marine Reservoir Effect on Radiocarbon Ages in the Eastern Bering Sea. Arctic 55:7786.
Dumond, Don E., and VanStone, James W. 1995 Paugvik: A Nineteenth-Century Native Village on Bristol Bay, Alaska. Fieldiana Anthropology New Series No. 24. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago.
Fienup-Riordan, Ann, and Rearden, Alice 2016 Anguyiim Nalliini/Time of Warring: The History of the Bow and Arrow Wars in Southwest Alaska. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks.
Fienup-Riordan, Ann, Rearden, Alice, and Knecht, Melia 2015 Irr'inarqellriit/Amazing Things: Quinhagak Elders Reflect on their Past. Alaska Journal of Anthropology 13:3770.
Forbes, Véronique, Britton, Kate, and Knecht, Richard A. 2014 Preliminary Archaeoentomological Analyses of Permafrost-Preserved Cultural Layers from the Pre-contact Yup'ik Eskimo Site of Nunalleq, Alaska: Implications, Potential and Methodological Considerations. Environmental Archaeology 20:158167.
Friesen, Max, and Mason, Owen 2016 Introduction: Archaeology of the North American Arctic. In The Oxford Handbook of the Prehistoric Arctic, edited by Friesen, Max and Mason, Owen, pp. 117. Oxford University Press, New York.
Hamilton, W. Derek, Haselgrove, Colin, and Gosden, Chris 2015 The Impact of Bayesian Chronologies on the British Iron Age. World Archaeology 47:119.
Hamilton, W. Derek, and Kenney, Jane 2015 Multiple Bayesian Modelling Approaches to a Suite of Radiocarbon Dates from Ovens Excavated at Ysgol yr Hendre, Caernarfron, North Wales. Quaternary Geochronology 25:7282.
Hamilton, W. Derek, and Krus, Anthony M. 2017 The Myths and Realities of Bayesian Chronological Modelling. American Antiquity. DOI:10.1017/aaq.2017.57, accessed January 7, 2018.
Harris, Edward C. 1979 Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy. Academic Press, London.
Higham, Thomas F. G., Jacobi, Roger, Basell, Laura, Ramsey, Christopher Bronk, Chiotti, Laurent, and Nespoulet, Roland 2011 Precision Dating of the Palaeolithic: A New Radiocarbon Chronology for the Abri Pataud (France), a Key Aurignacian Sequence. Journal of Human Evolution 61:549563.
Knecht, Richard A. 2014 Nunalleq: Rescuing an Eskimo Village from the Sea. British Archaeology May/June:42–49.
Ledger, Paul M. 2018 Are Circumpolar Hunter-Gatherers Visible in the Palaeoenvironmental Record? Pollen Analytical Evidence from Nunalleq, Southwestern Alaska. Holocene 28:415426.
Ledger, Paul M., Forbes, Véronique, Masson-Maclean, Edouard, and Knecht, Richard A. 2016 Dating and Digging Stratified Archaeology in Circumpolar North America: A View from Nunalleq, Southwestern Alaska. Arctic 69:378390.
Nelson, Edward W. 1899 The Eskimo about Bering Strait. Bureau of American Ethnology Annual Report 18. US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
Oswalt, Wendell H. 1980 Kolmakovskiy Redoubt: The Ethnoarchaeology of a Russian Fort in Alaska. Monumenta Archaeologica Vol. 8. Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles.
Postinikov, Alexey, and Falk, Marvin 2015 Exploring and Mapping Alaska: The Russian American Era, 1741–1867. Translated by Black, Lydia. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks.
Pratt, Kenneth 2013 Deconstructing the Aglurmiut Migration: An Analysis of Accounts from the Russian-America Period to the Present. Alaska Journal of Anthropology 11:1736.
Reimer, Paula J., Bard, Edouard, Alex Bayliss, J. Beck, Warren, Blackwell, Paul G., Ramsey, Christopher Bronk, Buck, Caitlin E., Hai Cheng, R. Edwards, Lawrence, Friedrich, Michael, Grootes, Pieter M., Guilderson, Thomas P., Haflidason, Haflidi, Hajdas, Irka, Hatté, Christine, Heaton, Timothy J., Hoffmann, Dirk L., Hogg, Alan G., Hughen, Konrad A., Kaiser, K. Felix, Kromer, Bernd, Manning, Sturt W., Niu, Mu, Reimer, Ron W., Richards, David A., Scott, E. Marian, Southon, John R., Staff, Richard A., Turney, Christian S. M., and der Plicht, Johannes van 2013 IntCal13 and Marine13 Radiocarbon Age Calibration Curves 0–50,000 Years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55:18691887.
Roberts, Patrick, Boivin, Nicole, Petraglia, Michael, Masser, Paul, Meece, Stephanie, Weisskopf, Alison, Silva, Fabio, Korisettar, Ravi, and Fuller, Dorian Q. 2016 Local Diversity in Settlement, Demography and Subsistence across the Southern Indian Neolithic-Iron Age Transition: Site Growth and Abandonment at Sanganakallu-Kupgal. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 8:575599.
Shaw, Robert D. 1982 The Expansion and Survival of Norton Tradition on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Arctic Anthropology 19 (2):5974.
Shaw, Robert D. 1998 An Archaeology of the Central Yupik: A Regional Overview for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Northern Bristol Bay and Nunivak Island. Arctic Anthropology 35 (1):234246.
Stuiver, Minze, and Kra, Renne S. 1986 Editorial Comment. Radiocarbon 28:ii.
Stuiver, Minze, and Polach, Henry A. 1977 Reporting of 14C Data. Radiocarbon 19:355363.
VanStone, James W. 1973 V.S. Khromchenko's Coastal Explorations in Southwestern Alaska, 1822. Fieldiana: Anthropology Vol. 64. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago.
VanStone, James W. 1984 Southwest Alaska Eskimo: Introduction. In Arctic, edited by Damas, David, pp. 205208. Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 5, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Ward, G. K, and Wilson, S. R. 1978 Procedures for Comparing and Combining Radiocarbon Age Determinations: A Critique. Archaeometry 20:1931.
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Ledger et al. supplementary material
Table S1

 Word (30 KB)
30 KB


  • Paul M. Ledger (a1), Véronique Forbes (a2) (a3), Edouard Masson-Maclean (a1), Charlotta Hillerdal (a1), W. Derek Hamilton (a4), Ellen McManus-Fry (a1), Ana Jorge (a1), Kate Britton (a5) (a6) and Richard A. Knecht (a1)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed