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Late Pleistocene marine resources from the Bering Glacier Foreland and human coastal migration in the northern Gulf of Alaska region

  • David R. Yesner (a1), Anne D. Pasch (a2) and Kristine J. Crossen (a2)

Abstract

Recent research on the Bering Glacier forelands in the northern Gulf of Alaska provides new insights into late Pleistocene/early Holocene shorelines, providing a favorable route for human migration as early as ~16,000 cal yr BP. This route included an irregular coastline with embayments and islands offering protection from the open ocean; edible marine invertebrates dating from 15,000 to 5,500 cal yr BP; and marine vertebrates dating as early as 16,000 cal yr BP. The latter included walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus), and ringed seal (Phoca cf. hispida), all associated with pack ice conditions unlike those present today. While this ecosystem could have supported humans migrating along the coastline, and coastal refugia may have existed elsewhere in the region, coastal archaeological sites in the northern Gulf of Alaska and southwest Alaska are no older than ~9,500 cal yr BP. This suggests that the earliest sites have been eroded or destroyed, that the earliest migrants ignored available marine resources, and/or that these migrants did not use a coastal route. In contrast, the earliest archaeological sites in southeast Alaska date to ~12,500 cal yr BP, suggesting migration from interior Alaska to the coast somewhere east of the Copper River delta.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author at: Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Anchorage, 3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99508, USA.E-mail address: dryesner@uaa.alaska.edu (D.R. Yesner).

References

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Late Pleistocene marine resources from the Bering Glacier Foreland and human coastal migration in the northern Gulf of Alaska region

  • David R. Yesner (a1), Anne D. Pasch (a2) and Kristine J. Crossen (a2)

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