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Title: Animals, subsistence and society in Yup'ik prehistory
Author: Masson-MacLean, Edouard
ISNI:       0000 0004 7432 0410
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2018
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The prehistory of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is poorly understood and the region today is home to the Yupiit, whose traditional lifeways revolve around animals. However, the fur trade and Christianity limit the use of ethnographic data to fully understand pre-contact human-animal relationships and subsistence in particular. The discovery of the prehistoric site of Nunalleq (15th-17th c. AD), therefore provides a unique opportunity to address this issue and opens a window to explore human responses to the Little Ice Age. In this research, a zooarchaeological analysis was undertaken to investigate animal exploitation at Nunallleq, potential changes in subsistence strategies and the nature of the faunal assemblage. Results suggest that people at Nunalleq focused primarily on salmon, marine mammals and caribou with migratory waterfowl possibly playing an important role at specific times of the year. This tripartite subsistence strategy appears to have provided the inhabitants of the site with the flexibility and necessary coping mechanisms to face potential environmental-related stress during the Little Ice Age by relying more on other resources, such as seals and caribou, when experiencing a reduced availability of salmon. The choice to settle at Nunalleq may have been strategic in order to have good access to multiple key resources simultaneously and it is suggested that perhaps the possible decline in salmon may be related to prehistoric warfare in the region. It is also highlighted that bone working and dog gnawing contributed to the formation the Nunalleq faunal assemblage. This raises further questions as to the nature and meaning of arctic and subarctic archaeofaunas and highlights the importance of multiple lines of evidence to document past human-animal relationships. This study better informs our understanding of Nunalleq forming a baseline for further subsistence studies in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
Supervisor: Britton, Kate ; Knecht, Richard ; Dobey, Keith Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Excavations (Archaeology) ; Glacial epoch ; Yupik Eskimos ; Prehistoric peoples ; Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (Alaska)