I am interested in working with Ph.D. and M.A. students who are committed to anthropological archaeology, focusing on one or more datasets and approaches (lithics, fauna, intrasite and intersite variability, human behavioral ecology, GIS spatial modeling, etc.) to contribute to important anthropological questions such as high latitude adaptations, tracking coupled technological and economic change, human-environment interactions, and colonization of Beringia and the New World.
Subarctic and Arctic archaeology, intersite variability, site structure and organization, spatial anlysis, geographic information systems, human-environmental interactions, field survey and excavation, cultural resource management, multivariate statistical analyses, lithic analysis, faunal analysis
Work Experience (academic)
2016-present Professor and Department Chair, University of Alaska Fairbanks
2011-2016 Associate Professor and Department Chair, University of Alaska Fairbanks
2013 Visiting Associate Professor, Minzu University of China
2006-2011 Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks
2005-2006 Adjunct faculty, University of Alaska Fairbanks
1997-2003 Lecturer and Teaching Assistant, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Work Experience (CRM)
2006-2008 Senior Associate Archaeologist, Northern Land Use Research, Inc. (summers)
1998-2006 Senior Staff Archaeologist, Northern Land Use Research, Inc.
1997 Archaeologist, National Park Service
I have worked in Alaskan archaeology since 1995, receiving my Ph.D. in 2005 at University of Alaska Fairbanks. I have extensive field and laboratory experience in both CRM and academic archaeology and have worked for federal agencies (1997), private industry (1998-2006), and UAF (2005-present). Over the last 16 years, I have conducted surveys, site evaluations, and excavations throughout Alaska. My geographic interests include Subarctic and Arctic regions, particulary Interior and Northern Alaska. My research interests include intersite variability, site structure and organization, with a research program focusing broadly on the relationships among site structure, settlement, economy and technology among high latitude prehistoric hunter-gatherers. I also have considerable applied experience in field survey and excavation, spatial analysis, lithic and faunal analysis, intrasite and intersite modeling, and cultural resource management.
There are several elements of my active research agenda, focusing on site-based archaeology, GIS modeling, regional variability studies, and experimental techniques, and highlights are listed below:
ANTH-111, Ancient Civilizations
ANTH-211, Fundamentals of Archaeology
ANTH-214, World Prehistory
ANTH-309, Circumpolar Archaeology
ANTH-405/605, Archaeological Method and Theory
ANTH-492/692, Modeling Archaeological Data
ANTH-492/692, GIS Modeling in Archaeology
ANTH-492/692, Archaeometry: Lithic Analysis
ANTH-692, Problems in High Latitude Archaeology
ANTH-495/695, Archaeological Field School
(1) Peopling of the New World (~14,000 years ago) (sponsors: National Science Foundation, Denali LLC)
I have focused recently on Late Pleistocene (last Ice Age) adaptations of humans in western Beringia (Alaska and Yukon). I have worked to relate subsistence activities, general economic strategies, settlement strategies, and technology into a robust analytical framework. I have obtained funding from NSF and Denali, LLC to excavate two sites with Late Pleistocene components: Mead (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) and Upward Sun River (2010-2011, 2013, 2014). The excavations are designed to evaluate site formation, post-depositional disturbance, technology, and subsistence economies (and change through time with successive occupations). Key findings include models of flexible human adaptive strategies during the most climatically unstable time (from Bolling-Allerod through Younger Dryas and Holocene Thermal Maximum) and establishing that pre- and post-Younger Dryas populations were the same.
At Upward Sun River, our NSF-funded project provided data for two PhD students (Gelvin-Reymiller, Reuther). A truly unprecedented, spectacular find of the earliest human remains and residential structure in northern North America was discovered in 2010 and published in Science, has garnered world-wide attention to this site and our program (see New York Times , National Geographic). A series of articles are being written now on both sites (with students and colleagues). One M.A. student (Gilbert) has conducted geoarchaeological analysis of the Mead site, and another (Little) has examined lithics. I anticipate robust programs of continued excavation at both sites. The Mead site investigations are part of the Quartz Lake - Shaw Creek Flats Multidisciplinary Project.
In 2014, we reported on a double-infant burial at Upward Sun River directly below and associated with the upper child cremation. A special page has video and images from our work at Upward Sun River.
Potter, Ben A., Joel D. Irish, Joshua D. Reuther, and Holly J. McKinney (2014) New Insights into Eastern Beringian Mortuary Behavior: A Terminal Pleistocene Double Infant Burial at Upward Sun River. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (doi: 10.1073/pnas.143131111)
Potter, Ben A., Charles E. Holmes, and David R. Yesner (2013) Technology and Economy Among the Earliest Prehistoric Foragers in Interior Eastern Beringia. In Paleoamerican Odyssey proceedings, pp 463-485. Texas A&M Press.
Goebel, Ted, and Ben A. Potter (in review) First Traces: Late Pleistocene Human Settlement of the Arctic. In Handbook of Arctic Archaeology, edited by O.K. Mason and M.T. Friesen. Oxford University Press.
Potter, Ben A., Phoebe Gilbert, Charles E. Holmes, Barbara Crass, and Robert Bowman (2011) The Mead Site, a Late Pleistocene-Holocene Stratified Site in Central Alaska. Current Research in the Pleistocene 28:73-75.
(2) Early Holocene Adaptations (~10,000 years ago) (sponsors: National Science Foundation, National Park Service, Denali LLC)
A longer-term research program in the Tanana basin explores how humans adapted to changing environmental conditions after the last Ice Age. My recent NSF and Denali-funded research at Gerstle River (2008, 2010) has yielded publications, and we uncovered very rare well-preserved organic tools. Another component of this research is a NPS-funded excavation at the Teklanika West site. I have worked with one of my Masters students (Coffman) to excavate the site in 2009 (with paid undergraduate students). A National Geographic film crew spent four days with us filming our work for the January 2010 program Naked Science (Surviving Ancient Alaska). We are working now on analysis and dissemination through publications and presentations.
Samuel C. Coffman and Ben A. Potter (2011) Recent Excavations at Teklanika West: A Late Pleistocene Multicomponent Site in Denali National Park and Preserve, Central Alaska. Current Research in the Pleistocene 28:29-32.
Potter, Ben A. (2007) Models of Faunal Processing and Economy in Early Holocene Interior Alaska. Environmental Archaeology 12(1):3-23.
Potter, Ben A. (2002) A Provisional Correlation of Stratigraphy, Radiometric Dates, and Archaeological Components at the Gerstle River Site, Alaska. Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska, New Series 2(1):73-93.
Potter, Ben A. (2001) Recent Investigations at the Gerstle River Site, a Multicomponent Site in Central Alaska. Current Research in the Pleistocene, Vol. 18: 52-54.
(3) Subarctic Intersite Variability (sponsors: Wenner Gren Foundation, BLM)
This research relates to synthesizing large amounts of faunal, lithic, site structural, and spatial data to understand how human systems were conditioned by various factors (like habitat use) and how humans interacted with past environments, particularly in the context of climate change. Five peer-reviewed articles on these topics have appeared in recent years (see publications), and results indicate remarkable technological continuity but significant economic changes. I'm interested in the organization of microblade/composite tool technology and the contexts of use, and particularly how technological organization, land use practices, and subsistence economies condition the variability we see in the archaeological record.
Potter, Ben A. (in review) Holocene Prehistory of the Northwestern Subarctic. In Handbook of Arctic Archaeology, edited by O.K. Mason and M.T. Friesen. Oxford University Press.
Potter, Ben A. (2008) A First Approximation of Holocene Inter-assemblage Variability in Central Alaska. Arctic Anthropology 45(2):88-112.
Potter, Ben A. (2008) Exploratory Models of Intersite Variability in Mid to Late Holocene Central Alaska. Arctic 61(4):407-425.
Potter, Ben A. (2008) Radiocarbon Chronology of Central Alaska: Technological Continuity and Economic Change. Radiocarbon 50(2):181-204.
Potter, Ben A., Peter M. Bowers, Joshua D. Reuther, and Owen K. Mason (2007) Holocene Assemblage Variability in the Tanana Basin: NLUR Archaeological Research, 1994-2004. Alaska Journal of Anthropology 5(1):23-42.
(4) Dene-Yeniseian hypothesis
This research, involving collaborators around the world from multiple disciplines, relates to linguistic ties between Na-Dene peoples of North America and Ket peoples of central Siberia, thousands of miles away, demonstrated by Ed Vajda, Western Washington University. I have co-edited a monograph (with James Kari) and contributed two articles, which will lead to additional work to explore the significant implications of this link. I co-organized a conference in 2012 to explore the significant implications of this link. This work and our monograph has received worldwide attention, and was the subject of several reviews, including a very positive one by Jared Diamond in Nature (2011).
(5) GIS Modeling (sponsor: Bureau of Land Management)
Geographic Information Systems are becoming more prevalent in the anthropological sciences, particularly in archaeology. I have established a GIS laboratory within the Anthropology Dept., and we have successfully completed several funded projects to develop predictive models for site location for land managing agencies. This has resulted in funding for graduate students (Gelvin-Reymiller, Smith, Little), who have incorporated this technology and spatial perspectives in their theses, and other students (Qu, Vaska) who aided in survey and ground-testing and development of these models.
Potter, Ben A. (2012) Results of 2012 Helicopter Reconnaissance Survey of Northern Preacher Creek Valley, Steese Nattional Conservation Area North Unit. Prepared for BLM, by the Archaeology GIS Laboratory, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Report #5.
Potter, Ben A. (2011) Results of 2009-2010 Helicopter Reconnaissance Survey for the White Mountain National Recreation Area and Steese National Conservation Areas. Prepared for BLM, by the Archaeology GIS Laboratory, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Report #4.
Gelvin-Reymiller, Carol, and Ben A. Potter (2009) Site Location Model and Survey Strategy for Cultural Resources in the White Mountain National Recreation Area and Steese National Conservation Areas. Prepared for BLM, by the Archaeology GIS Laboratory, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Report #3.
Potter, Ben A. (2009) Results of 2009 Helicopter Reconnaissance Survey of Victoria Creek. Report to Bureau of Land Management by the Archaeology GIS Laboratory, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Report #1.
Potter, Ben A. (2005) Site Location Model and Survey Strategy for Cultural Resources in the Alaska Railroad Northern Rail Extension Project Area. Prepared for ICF Consulting Services, LLC, by Northern Land Use Research, Inc., Fairbanks. NLUR Technical Report #278a.
Potter, Ben A., Peter M. Bowers, Peter J. Kriz, and Kristjan W. M. Farmen (2002) Integrated Plan for the Management of Cultural Resources in the Red Dog Project Area. Prepared for Teck Cominco Alaska Incorporated by Northern Land Use Research, Inc., Fairbanks. NLUR Technical Report #141.
Potter, Ben A., Peter M. Bowers, S. Craig Gerlach, Owen K. Mason, Matthew Ganley, and Scott S. Legge (2001) Site Location Model and Survey Strategy for Cultural Resources in the Alaska Gas Producers Pipeline Project Area. Prepared for Alaska Gas Producers Pipeline Team by Northern Land Use Research, Inc., Fairbanks and Chumis Cultural Resources Services, Anchorage. NLUR Technical Report #116.
(6) Chinese Late Upper Paleolithic
This is a research program I have initiated in Fall 2013. Using similar approaches I've used in eastern Beringia, I plan to explore the northern Chinese record. Both Beringia and northern China have similar technologies during the late Pleistocene (14,000-10,000 years ago), and both are at the extreme edges of microblade distributions, but in different environments, thus offering significant contrasts in human adaptive patterns during the Pleistocene/Holocene transition. I have spent four months in Beijing exploring this work, and plan to work in collaboration with Chinese researchers in the next few years.
Potter, Ben A. (2013) Social Organization among Foragers and Responses to Risk. Special Lecture to the School of History and Culture, Minzu University of China, Beijing.
(7) Other Projects
Other research involves experiments on different archaeological and forensic methods, in collaboration with a PhD student (Reuther). One relates to identifying taxon-specific proteins from residues on stone tools and from ancient bone (see JAS article). A second relates to evaluating different bone collagen pretreatments for radiocarbon dating using very high resolution archaeological data (from Gerstle River), yielding one article in American Antiquity and a second manuscript to be submitted in Spring 2012. A third project relates to geochemically sourcing rhyolite (a tool stone) from archaeological contexts.
Potter, Ben A., and Joshua D. Reuther (2012) High Resolution Radiocarbon Dating at the Gerstle River Site, Central Alaska. American Antiquity, Volume 77(1):71-98.
Potter, Ben A., Joshua D. Reuther, Jerrold M. Lowenstein, and Gary Scheuenstuhl (2010) Assessing the Reliability of pRIA for Identifying Ancient Proteins from Archaeological Contexts. Journal of Archaeological Science 37:910-918.
Gelvin-Reymiller, Carol*, Joshua D. Reuther*, Ben A. Potter, and Peter M. Bowers (2006) Technical Aspects of a Worked Proboscidean Tusk from Inmachuk River, Seward Peninsula, Alaska. Journal of Archaeological Science 33:1088-1094