Alaska Quaternary Center

373 Reichardt Building
900 Yukon Dr.
PO Box 75-5940
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-5940

Phone: (907) 474-5433
Fax: (907) 474-5101


Caitlin Holloway

Name of conference: Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting
Location: Orlando, Florida
Dates: April, 2016
Paper or Poster title: An Archaeobotanical Analysis of the Upward Sun River Site, Central Alaska
Authors: Caitlin Holloway

Vegetation and plant resources can impact forager mobility and subsistence strategies. However, misconceptions about the preservation of organics in subarctic archaeological contexts and underestimations of the importance of plant resources to foraging societies limit paleoethnobotanical research in high-latitude environments. This research addresses these issues with analyses of archaeobotanical remains found in hearth features from multiple components (approximately 13,300 through 8,000 cal BP) at the Upward Sun River site in the Tanana River basin, central Alaska. Final results from macrobotanical and charcoal identification suggest the presence of several key taxa on the landscape while the site was occupied, including birch, willow, Populus sp., and bearberry. This research contributes to our understanding of plant resource use among foraging populations and broadens our understanding of human-environment interaction in subarctic regions. 

Louise Farquharson

Name of conference: American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
Location: San Francisco, CA
Dates: December, 2015
Paper or Poster title: Timing of high sea level stands in Arctic Alaska during Marine Isotope Stage 5 and inferences about coastal processes
Authors:  L.M.Farquharson, D.H.Mann, B.M.Jones, T.M. Rittenour, G.Grosse

The glacial and interglacial periods of the Quaternary resulted in repeated growth and decay ofice sheets, and consequently in sea level oscillations. Along the Beaufort coast of Alaska, highsea level during interglacial periods followed extensive marine transgressions (the rise of searelative to land). During these transgressions, thick units of sediment were deposited nearshore.These deposits preserve valuable archives of coastal environments during previous interglacials.  Of particular interest is the last interglacial (Marine Isotope Stage (MIS 5), a period when the Arctic Ocean may have been largely ice-free in summer. Along the Beaufort coast, discontinuous marine terraces and coastal landforms located 7-10 m above modern sea level have been assigned to this time period (~120 ka BP) and are termed the Pelukian transgression. In light of current climate warming and sea ice decline, MIS 5 is a fascinating analogue for future conditions and may provide insight into the rates and magnitudes of the landscape scale shifts that we might expect over coming centuries.

We present an OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) based chronology from an exposure on
Teshekpuk Lake, 15 km south of the Beaufort Sea coast of Alaska, identified as representing the Pelukian transgression. Our preliminary OSL dates* are not yet final but current analysis
indicates that during one of the MIS 5 substages (OSL age: 113+/-17.6 ka) a shift from massive
marine clay to fossil-rich marine, near-coastal sands occurred. The transition between Unit 1 and Unit 2 currently lies ~ 2.75 m above present sea level. At the base of Unit 2 we found a bed with abundant woody debris, including well-preserved spruce driftwood trunks up to 10 cm in diameter that yielded radiocarbon dead ages. By 93 +/- 13.8 ka, 5.25 m of bedded sands and gravel had accumulated above Unit 1, indicating the presence of a higher energy environment, likely deltaic. The marine sand and gravel unit contained abundant well-preserved bivalve and marine mammal fossils including a walrus tusk, a ringed seal metatarsal and bowhead whale vertebrae. Unit 2 is overlain by several meters of organic rich icy terrestrial silt, for which basal ages were radiocarbon dead and an OSL date of 56.0 +/- 12.8 ka BP indicates a begin of deposition during the early Wisconsin.

Benjamin Gaglioti

Name of conference: XIXth INQUA Conference
Location: Nagoya, Japan
Dates: July, 2015
Paper or Poster title: Using varved lake sediments to detect human impacts on boreal wildfire in Interior, Alaska
Authors: Benjamin V. Gaglioti, Bruce P. Finney, Benjamin M. Jones, John W. Pohlman, Matthew J. Wooller, Daniel H. Mann

Wildfire is a keystone disturbance in the boreal forest, affecting everything from public safety to woodpeckers, and permafrost. How settlement by European people impacted wildfire regimes in Alaska is poorly known because paleo-fire records near population centers are rare. High-resolution studies are needed to detect recent changes in the ‘natural’ tempo of wildfire in the far North because the eras of human settlement and fire suppression are relatively short. Here, we describe the limnological and depositional conditions that produce a varved record in a thermokarst lake near the city of Fairbanks, Alaska (est. AD 1902). This archive is then used to reconstruct the frequency of local wildfires over the last 500 years. Clastic-biogenic varves consisting of silt and annual succession of algae blooms are deposited in deepwater zones (>5 m) and preserved by meromictic conditions in the lake are used for the chronology of paleo-wildfire activity. We measured charcoal area as viewed in epoxy thin sections to detect the age and relative magnitude of paleo-wildfires.  The timing of charcoal peaks in the varve record correlate with the timing of scarred spruce trees around the lake based on tree-ring analyses, indicating that four local wildfires occurred since AD 1900, and the last one occurring in AD 1962. During the ~400 years before Fairbanks was founded, local fires occurred on average every 56 years (35-98 year range). After European settlement, local fires became significantly more frequent (mean 21 years, 10-28 year range) suggesting a human impact on the fire regime during the settlement era that, until now, has had little prehistoric context. This period of anomalously frequent wildfires followed by fire suppression has caused the forest stand-ages, successional seres, and wildfire fuels to be synchronized around Fairbanks today. The paleo-record indicates that this forest will soon be overdue to re-burn.

Louise Farquharson

Name of conference: XVIIth INQUA Conference
Location: Bern, Switzerland
Dates: July, 2011
Paper or Poster title: Holocene thermokarst lake formation within yedoma sediments of the northern Seward Peninsula, Alaska and the Kolyma River Lowlands, North East Siberia.
Authors: Louise Farquharson, Katey Walter Anthony, Nancy Bigelow, Guido Grosse, Mary Edwards

Thermokarst lakes dominate large areas of the Arctic and form through ground collapsing as ice
rich permafrost thaws and surface water pools. They play a critical role in greenhouse gas via the emission of methane (CH4). To understand the future role of thermokarst lakes within the global carbon cycle, it is essential to identify patterns of lake activity during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene. For this it is necessary to understand thermokarst lake formation and development. We collected 60 lake cores, 40 permafrost cores and sampled 44 drained thermokarst lake basin exposures, at our study sites, located in areas of yedoma, on the Seward Peninsula, AK and in the Kolyma Lowlands, NE Siberia. Through visual analysis we identified five key sediment units: laminated silt, chaotic Quaternary, laminated redeposited Quaternary, basal and taberal (thawed in-situ yedoma). We analyzed all permafrost and lake cores for magnetic susceptibility and bulk density using a GEOTEK multi sensor logger and used multi proxy analysis of % Corg, % N, 13C, biogenic silica, grain size and macrofossils, to characterize each sediment unit. Stratigraphic cross sections were created to identify sediment unit distribution within thermokarst lake basins. Each sediment unit represents a different depositional environment, which can be used to reconstruct thermokarst lake development. Additionally, we concluded that sediment unit packages close to the geographic center, containing basal sediments but lacking both chaotic Quaternary and laminated redeposited Quaternary sediments were ideal locations to sample for lake initiation dating.

Samuel Coffman

Name of conference: Society of American Archaeology (SAA) Annual Meetings
Location: St. Louis, MO
Dates: April 14 – 18, 2010
Paper or Poster title: Early Holocene Archaeology at Teklanika West, central Alaska
Authors: Sam Coffman and Ben A. Potter

We report recent research at Teklanika West, one of the original sites used to define the Denali Complex. Multiple components were confirmed at this site, dating throughout the Holocene. Lithic analyses indicate multiple site activities, including weapon maintenance and primary reduction. Faunal analyses are used to infer changing subsistence economies present at the site.

Phoebe Gilbert

Name of conference: Alaska Anthropological Association Annual Meeting
Location: Anchorage Ak
Dates: March 24-27
Paper or Poster title: Occupation and Climate change at the Mead Site:  A Geoarchaeological Approach
Authors: Phoebe Gilbert

Questions of paleo-climate/human interactions on the occupational landscape of interior Alaska have intrigued archaeologists for years.  Unfortunately most archaeological sites in interior Alaska are shallow or surface sites with little preservation or stratigraphy.  The Mead Site, a deeply buried site with multiple occupations and excellent preservation, provides a rare opportunity to study the human/climate relationship in prehistory.  Buried surfaces at the site may indicate discrete intervals of when the site would have been available for occupation, and which may correlate with times of environmental stability in the area. Utilizing both geological data and spatial analytical data of the cultural remains from the site, correlations between occupations and climate change in Alaska are presented.

Jason Addison

2008 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, California
Dates: Dec. 15-19, 2008
Poster title: High-Resolution Records of Mid-Holocene Paleoceanographic Change From the Subarctic Northeast Pacific Ocean
Authors: Jason A. Addison (lead author); Walter E. Dean (USGS); Bruce P. Finney (Idaho State Univ.); Maureen H. Davies (Oregon State Univ.)

We present data from four new ultra-high resolution (SAR >2 mm/yr) marine sediment cores recovered along the margin of the Gulf of Alaska region in the Subarctic Northeast Pacific Ocean (SNEPO) recording fluctuations in detrital, biogenic, & authigenic sedimentary components. These regional records of climate change indicate four major regimes since the onset of the Holocene along the SNEPO margin. One of the most distinctive environmental shifts was the change from the relatively warm & moist conditions of the early Holocene Thermal Maximum (HTM) into colder & drier conditions that occurred between approximately 3000 - 7000 cal yrs BP in this high-latitude region. There is a key shift in both paleoproductivity proxies and redoxsensitive trace metal accumulation rates associated with this climatic transition. Based on observations of modern atmosphere-ocean-ecosystem interactions operating in the SNEPO, we interpret these biogeochemical shifts to reflect a change in the baseline mechanics of the atmospheric Aleutian Low (AL) pressure cell. The AL is the principal driving force that leads to nutrient upwelling in the Alaska Gyre, as well as the mechanism that controls coastal stratification via precipitation input & associated fluvial runoff. The measured changes in productivity and trace metals imply a millennial-scale oscillation in upwelling intensity and concomitant horizontal advection towards the more stratified waters of the coastal SNEPO. This oscillatory behavior lasts only 3000 years and terminates during a widespread glacial advance, when paleoproductivity indicators increase monotonically into the late Holocene. Both the magnitude and the millennial-scale frequency are statistically different from observational data of modern conditions in the SNEPO, suggesting that different mechanisms controlled the atmosphere-ocean-ecosystem linkage over this earlier time interval. Changes in high-latitude Northern Hemisphere summer insolation coupled to complex ocean-atmosphere feedbacks may be responsible.

Sarah J. Meitl

Annual Meeting of the Alaska Anthropological Association. Anchorage, AK
Dates: February 27 to March 1, 2008
Paper or Poster title: Denbigh Flint Complex at Onion Portage: What can stone tools tell us?
Authors: Sarah J. Meitl

The Denbigh Flint Complex (Denbigh) has been known for over fifty years, yet there is
still much we do not understand. Questions of origin or affiliation often receive the most
attention, but other aspects of Denbigh culture remain conjecture, tied loosely to
archaeological evidence. The majority of Denbigh material remains are lithic scatters
and hearths representing a passing occupation of a location. However, the Denbigh
occupation at Onion Portage contains hundreds of features and thousands of artifacts,
separated into nine stratigraphic levels. These remains present a unique opportunity to
examine how Denbigh people lived and if or how their behavior changed through time.
Selected artifact assemblages are compared between features and evaluated in terms
of current theories concerning the timing, mobility, and other behavior patterns of
Denbigh culture. Previous interpretations are discussed based on these findings.

Eva Stephani

American Geophysical Union 2007 Fall meeting
Location: San Francisco, California
Dates: December 10-14, 2007
Paper or Poster title: Studies of contemporary glacier basal ice cryostructures to identify buried basal ice in the permafrost: an example from the Matanuska Glacier, Alaska.
Authors: Eva Stephani, Daniel Fortier, Mikhail Kanevskiy, Matthew Dillon, Yuri Shur

In the permafrost, massive ice bodies occur as buried glacier ice, aufeis ice, recrystalized snow, massive segregated ice, injection ice, ice wedges or ice formed in underground cavities (“pool ice”, “thermokarst-cave ice”). The origin of massive ice bodies in the permafrost bares considerable implications for the reconstructions of paleoenvironments and paleoclimates. Our work aims to help the permafrost scientists working on massive icy sediments to distinguish buried basal glacier ice from other types of buried ice. To do so, the properties and structure of contemporary basal ice must be well known.
Field investigations at the Matanuska Glacier (Chugach range, South-central Alaska), consisted in descriptions and sampling of natural basal ice exposures. We have used the basal ice facies classification of Lawson (1979) which is simple, easy to use in the field and provides a good framework for the description of basal ice exposures. Cores were extracted and brought back to the laboratory for water and grain-size analyses. The sediments forming the cryostructures were mostly polymodal, poorly sorted gravelly silt to gravelly fine sand, with mud contents generally over 50%. These data will be used to calibrate three-dimensional (3D) models produced from micro-tomographic scans of basal ice which will produce quantitative estimates of volumetric ice and sediments contents of basal ice cryostructures. Ultimately, visual qualitative and quantitative characterization of the basal ice components of 3D models together with field observations and laboratory analysis will allow for a new micro-facies and cryostructures classification of the basal ice. Our work will also have applications in glaciology, glacial geology, geomorphology, Quaternary and paleo-climatological studies based on inferences made from the structure of basal glacier ice. This paper presents the internal composition of the basal ice facies in terms of cryostructures assemblages (Fortier et al.: 2007) and sedimentological properties.

Fortier, D., Kanevskiy, M, Stephani, E., Dillon, M., Shur, Y. 2007. Facies and cryostructures of glacier basal ice as an object of permafrost study, an example from the Matanuska Glacier, Alaska. Canadian Quaternary Association Conference, Ottawa, June 2007: 75.

Lawson, D.E. 1979. Sedimentological analysis of the western terminus region of the Matanuska Glacier, Alaska. Cold Regions Engineering and Research Laboratory, Hanover, N.H., Report 79- 9.

Yiming Wang

AGU annual fall meeting
Location: San Francisco, CA
Dates: Dec. 10th to 14th 2007
Paper or Poster title: Late Quaternary Environmental Changes Inferred from the Stable Oxygen Isotope Composition of Aquatic Insects (Chironomidae: Diptera) and Stable Hydrogen Isotope Composition of bulk sediments from Idavain Lake, Southwest Alaska
Authors: Yiming Wang, Bruce Finney, Matthew Wooller

Several techniques are available to examine the isotopic composition of historic lake waters, providing data that can subsequently be used to examine environmental changes. Recently-developed techniques are the stable oxygen isotope analysis of subfossil chironomid (Diptera: Chironomidae) head capsules (mostly chitin) preserved in lake sediments and stable hydrogen isotope analyses directly on bulk sediments. The advantage of using δ18O of chironomids is that the chitinous chironomid headcapsules preserve well in lake sediments, retaining the stable oxygen isotope signature of the lake in which they lived. An advantage of δ D analyses of bulk sediments is that a sediment core can be analyzed relatively easily and when the %C (total organic carbon) and %H profiles correlate the data can be used to infer past δD changes of the organics in the sediments. We present results from these analyses of a lake sediment core from Idavain Lake (58°46´N, 155°57´W, 223m asl) in southwest Alaska in concert with other paleolimnological proxies including δ15N, δ13C LOI, magnetic susceptibility, organic content and opal concentrations for a better understanding of paleolimnological changes since deglaciation for the region. Our preliminary result showed that downcore shifts of δ18O analyzed from chironomid head capsules coincide with LOI and pollen changes. The δD of sediments showed large magnitude changes during the record as well. This study will add to the relatively small database of paleoenvironmental reconstructions from terrestrial sites Southwest Alaska.

Jason Addison

2006 Annual American Geophysical Union Meeting
Location: San Francisco, California
Dates: Dec. 10-15, 2006
Paper or Poster title: Biogeochemical and Isotopic Records of Holocene Climate Change in the Gulf of Alaska, Northeast Pacific Ocean
Authors: Jason A. Addison (lead author & oral presenter); Bruce P. Finney; Jamie R. Coon

The rapidly accumulating sediment in the Gulf of Alaska (GoA) presents a unique opportunity to study the effects of climate change on marine production over decadal to millennial timescales during the Late Quaternary. Because several parameters that influence marine production are directly related to climate, it is possible to quantify the effects of both short-term regime shifts in the Aleutian Low/Pacific (inter)Decadal Oscillation and long-term Milankovitch orbital forcing using techniques that measure marine paleoproduction. This study describes fluctuations in the accumulation of biogenic and terrestrial sedimentary components using sediment cores recovered from the Gulf of Alaska during the R/V Maurice Ewing EW0408 cruise in the summer of 2004. This set of cores provides an opportunity for the first systematic assessment of marine paleoproductivity for this sector of the Northeast Pacific Ocean.

Bulk sediment samples from a subset of these cores along the southern margin of the Gulf of Alaska were analyzed for biogeochemical concentrations and isotopic ratios. We analyzed a suite of proxies to assess paleoproductivity, including opal, Corg, CaCO3, δ13C, δ15N, and C/N ratios. A suite of major, minor, & trace elements were also measured using X-ray fluorometry to assess fluxes of lithogenic, biogenic, and redox sensitive components. Preliminary results indicate that opal & Corg concentrations are more than two times higher in fjords than in adjacent shelf environments. A strong correlation between opal & Corg records for the GoA shelf suggests a diatom-dominated ecosystem throughout the Holocene. This observation is supported by δ13C measurements that indicate carbon contributions dominantly from phytoplankton with minor terrestrial C3 plant input. δ15N data are relatively constant over the Holocene suggesting either persistent advection of upwelled Alaska Gyre nutrients towards the GoA margin, or rates of denitrification have remained constant since the onset of modern oceanographic conditions.

Hayley Lanier

Visit to US National Museum (Smithsonian)
Location: Washington, DC
Dates: Feburary 2007
Museum contacts: Drs. Richard Thorington and Robert Hoffmann

I am currently studying the phylogeography, morphological variation, and evolutionary history of the collared pika (Ochotona collaris). Although the fossil data indicate that O. collaris was widespread during the Pleistocene, genetic data suggest the extant populations may have recently radiated from a single small population. Where this refugial population was located, and how it is related to the numerous fossil forms, has yet to be determined. My research integrates genetic samples, skeletal measurements, and locality information obtained from newly collected and preexisting O. collaris specimens located at the University of Alaska Museum. To improve geographic and temporal coverage we have been collecting samples in the field, and I have been requesting specimens on loan from other museums. While a number of these museums have smaller holdings that can be obtained on loan, some museums possess samples that are so numerous (>100 individuals) or rare (e.g, type specimens) as to necessitate visiting in person. This is, understandably, a costly undertaking given our current location. I am applying to request funds for travel to the US National Museum in Washington D.C. to examine, measure, and sample their collection of Recent and fossil Ochotona from Alaska and northwest Canada.

Objectives of visit:

  • Examine specimens of extant (including the holotype) and fossil pikas available in US
    National Museum collections
  • Collect cranial and postcranial measurements (approximately 50 per specimen) for
    determining current range of body sizes, and clinal changes (relationship between
    environmental variables, latitude, and population differentiation)
  • Examine and measure (where possible) same series of cranial and postcranial landmarks from fossil material (both O. collaris and O. whartoni)
  • Collect genetic samples from skins and skulls to further extend and characterize
    phylogeographic structure, and look for geographic areas of high genetic diversity (potential Pleistocene refugia)
  • Determine accurate locality information utilizing collector field notes and specimen skin tags

Tammy Greene

American Association of Physical Anthroplogists 75th Annual Meeting
Location: Anchorage, AK
Dates: March 12-15, 2006
Paper or Poster title: Diet at predynastic Hierakonpolis: an examination of macrowear, microwear, and caries
Authors: T. Greene

While the archaeological record can tell us what foods were available to a population, it cannot reveal whether all members of a group consumed the same diet. This study examines 196 individuals from the Predynastic working class cemetery (HK43) at Hierakonpolis Egypt in order to determine whether males, females, and juveniles shared a similar diet. The burials, as determined through pottery date to Naqada II. Sub-adults account for 16% of the sample. Forty-six percent of the adult sample is male and 54% is female. Methods for determining diet include macrowear scores for the maxillary and mandibular first and second molars; microwear for the phase II wear facet of the second molar, and carious lesion frequency and severity for all teeth.

This analysis shows that while the diets are very similar for all individuals, there are dietary differences between males and females at this site. The dentition of males tends to wear at a significantly faster rate than females. Juveniles are shown to have a diet very similar to that of the adults, the only significant difference being in the number of juveniles who exhibit polish on their micrographs. Data from macrowear, microwear and caries is compared to known available foodstuffs from Predynastic Egypt in order to determine the most likely cause of the patterns seen.

This project was supported by a National Science Foundation grant (BCS- 0119754) awarded to Dr. Jerome Rose at the University of Arkansas.

Nicole Misarti

Society for American Archaeology, 71st Annual Meeting
Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Dates: March 26-30, 2006
Paper or Poster title: Reconstructing midden composition through chemical analysis of soils in the eastern Aleutians
Authors: Nicole Misarti, Bruce Finney, Herbert Maschner

In order to characterize the chemical signatures of middens with differing faunal remains, this study determined chemical compositions of soils collected from middens from two Aleutian islands, Sanak and Unalaska islands, Alaska. Concentrations of Al, Ba, Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, P, Sr, Ti, and Zn from 200 samples were analyzed usingan inductivley coupled plasma-mass spectrometer (ICP-MS). Results show this type of research could be utilized to determine the presence and possibly faunal composition of middens at older sites in the Aleutians that no longer contain organic remains.

Amy Rodman

American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
Location: San Francisco, CA
Dates: December, 2005
Paper or Poster title: Origin for Kuparuk River basin springs, North Slope, Alaska
Authors: Rodman, A; Kane, D; Hinzman, L

In the foothills of the Brooks Range of northern Alaska, an abundance of spring discharge occurs year-round. This current research focuses on hydrologic conditions, source of the springs, its residence time and geometry. Possible sources for the spring water are sub-permafrost groundwater and baseflow and groundwater flow immediately adjacent to the Kuparuk River. Water samples were collected in 2005 from the Kuparuk River Watershed, including Imnavait Creek, prior to snowmelt (April), during/after snowmelt (June) and late summer (August). Electric conductivity (EC) values ranged between 50-65 mS/cm for spring water, while EC values at the Kuparuk River ranged from 34.6-235 mS/cm. Alkalinity readings of water from the Kuparuk River ranged from 13.9-64 mg/L; this is compared with spring water values of 24.3-39.9 mg/L. Variations in chemical properties (total and dissolved organic and inorganic carbon, pH, alkalinity, electrical conductivity, and dissolved oxygen) suggest that local spring water is related to the baseflow of Kuparuk River during summer periods. Preliminary data collected in the 2005 field season demonstrates interaction between the flow of the Kuparuk River, nearby spring discharge, aufeis development and permafrost dynamics.