In 2016, the Cultural Places Program contributed significantly to the following new research publications:

Bison phylogeography constrains dispersal and viability of the Ice Free Corridor in western Canada

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 (29), pp. 8057–8063

The Ice Free Corridor has been invoked as a route for Pleistocene human and animal dispersals between eastern Beringia and more southerly areas of North America. Despite the significance of the corridor, there are limited data for when and how this corridor was used. Hypothetical uses of the corridor include: the first expansion of humans from Beringia into the Americas, northward postglacial expansions of fluted point technologies into Beringia, and continued use of the corridor as a contact route between the north and south. Here, we use radiocarbon dates and ancient mitochondrial DNA from late Pleistocene bison fossils to determine the chronology for when the corridor was open and viable for biotic dispersals. The corridor was closed after ∼23,000 until 13,400 calendar years ago (cal y BP), after which we find the first evidence, to our knowledge, that bison used this route to disperse from the south, and by 13,000 y from the north. Our chronology supports a habitable and traversable corridor by at least 13,000 cal y BP, just before the first appearance of Clovis technology in interior North America, and indicates that the corridor would not have been available for significantly earlier southward human dispersal. Following the opening of the corridor, multiple dispersals of human groups between Beringia and interior North America may have continued throughout the latest Pleistocene and early Holocene. Our results highlight the utility of phylogeographic analyses to test hypotheses about paleoecological history and the viability of dispersal routes over time.

The Precontact History of Subarctic Northwest Canada

In The Oxford Handbook of the Prehistoric Arctic. Friesen, Max; Mason, Owen (Ed.): 2016.

This chapter provides an overview of precontact hunter-gatherer land use in the Subarctic region of northwest Canada. The earliest evidence of human presence in this region is found in the unglaciated areas of Yukon Territory at Bluefish Caves and the Little John Site. The role of an ice-free corridor in the Mackenzie Valley in the dispersal of early peoples remains unclear. Caribou-hunting strategies are used as a theme to explore regional histories between 7,000 B.P. and the beginning of the historic period. Migratory tundra caribou were a focal resource for many hunter-gatherer societies in this region. The emerging archaeological record of alpine ice patches provides a unique view of hunter-gatherer land use in alpine regions. The archaeological record of the Mackenzie Valley is one of the poorest known in all of North America. Throughout, the chapter highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the Subarctic archaeological record for interpreting precontact land use.

Tertiary Hills Clinker in Alberta: A partially fused vesicular toolstone from the Mackenzie Basin of Northwest Territories, Canada

Back on the horse: Recent developments in archaeological and palaeontological research in Alberta, Archaeological Survey of Alberta, 2016.

This article is the first in the Alberta Lithic Reference Project series, the goal of which is to assist the identification of raw materials used for pre-contact stone tools in the province. Each article focuses on one raw material; the current article discusses a partially fused, glassy, vesicular rock that originates in Northwest Territories called Tertiary Hills Clinker (THC). THC appears in archaeological sites in northern and central Alberta. A suite of techniques indicates that it can be geochemically sourced much like obsidian. The accurate identification of THC can reveal significant relationships between occupants of Alberta and the Mackenzie Basin to the north.