Paleo-Arctic Tradition

Paleo-Arctic Tradition

The Paleo-Arctic Tradition is the name given by archaeologists to the cultural tradition of the earliest well-documented human occupants of the North American Arctic, which date from the period 8000–5000 BC. The tradition covers Alaska and expands far into the east, west, and the Southwest Yukon Territory.

Around 8000 BC, Alaska was still connected to Siberia with the landbridge, located in the current Bering Strait. People who inhabited this region in Alaska were of the Diuktai tradition, originally located in Siberia. Eventually, the Diuktai changed into the Sumnagin culture, a hunting/fishing group, whose culture was defined by possessing a new technology. Other cultures flourished as well, all being placed under the general category of the Paleo-Arctic tradition.

:"The Paleo-Arctic tradition is still a shadowy entity, a patchwork of local Early Holocene cultural traditions that flourished over an enormous area of extreme northwestern North America for at least 4000 years, and longer in many places. Other terms such as the Northwest Microblade tradition, Denali Complex, and Beringian tradition have been used to describe these same general adaptations, but Paleo-Arctic is the most appropriate because it is the kind of general label that reflects a great variety of different human adaptations during a period of increasing environmental diversity and change" (Fagan, p.173).

The Paleo-Arctic is mostly known for it lithic remains or stone technology. Some artifacts found include microblades, small wedge-shaped cores, some leafeshaped bifaces, scrapers, and graving tools. The microblades were used as hunting weapons and were mounted in wood, antler, or bone points. Paleo-Arctic stone specialists also created bifaces that were used as tools and as cores for the production of large artifact blanks. Little evidence remains of the culture's settlement patterns, because many of the settlements were buried by the rising sea levels of the Holocene; however, remains of stone tools were discovered, giving indirect evidence of settlement sites.

Some Paleo-Arctic sites include Gallagher Flint Station, the Ground Bay site, the Anangula site, the Kagati site and the Ugashik Narrow site.


* Fagan, Brian M. "Ancient North America." London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2005.

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