May 16 through June 18, 2016
Mead site is a multicomponent site consisting of at least 4 components dating from 14,000 to 1,400 years ago in deeply buried stratified contexts in the mid Tanana Basin, near Delta Junction, Alaska. This site has received little investigation given its importance in the early prehistory of northwest North America, but initial excavations have yielded lithic tools, organic tools, and faunal remains from multiple components. Along with Broken Mammoth and Swan Point, this is one of the oldest sites in northwest North America, and indeed in the Western Hemisphere. The presence of faunal remains and lithic artifacts within stratified contexts provides an opportunity to document patterning in site use and test hypotheses about technology, subsistence, and settlement of ancient populations in Interior Alaska.
The 2016 excavation and field school at Mead is designed to better understand activity areas and technological and subsistence change through time. Specifically, we will focus on areas of the site where we recovered numerous faunal remains (bison, waterfowl, small game, and fish) dating to ~12,500 cal BP, that may represent multiple ancient house floors. In the past several seasons, we encountered multiple hearth features with associated fauna, including (1) a Pre-Clovis horizon associated with bison and quartz lithics dating to >13,300 cal BP, (2) an early horizon with 6 hearths dating to over 13,000 cal BP, (3) a Younger Dryas horizon (Folsom age) with 15 hearth-related activity areas dating to 12,500 cal BP, and (4) a middle Holocene layer with an associated cache pit, the earliest of its kind in this region. All of these areas have associated well preserved faunal remains. We expect to recover numerous lithic and faunal remains, probably in association with hearth features. This will give field school students an unparalleled opportunity to participate in a cutting edge excavation of an important site, using modern archaeological equipment and techniques that will be valuable to them in their future work and classes.
We will use the grid established in previous years, and a Leica Total Station will be used for mapping. Students will be trained in both computer and traditional methods of provenience control. Various excavation strategies, stratigraphic profile drawing, and field recording will be emphasized. Archaeological features and articulated faunal remains may be encountered, thus enabling students to get specialized training in excavating and preserving these rare entities.
Stratigraphy at the site consists of a series of aeolian sediments up to four m thick with several buried paleosol complexes. Given the complexity and time depth of the site, students will get a chance to develop excavation skills useful for many different archaeological problems (i.e., zooarchaeology, stratigraphy, spatial analysis, etc.). This is one of few sites in Interior Alaska with excellent faunal preservation, micro-stratigraphic and radiocarbon controls. We will also conduct optically stimulated luminescence dating (OSL), and students will be able to take part in this cutting edge research.
Lectures will be conducted on a regular basis on various aspects of archaeological theory, excavation practice, and analyses. I feel that archaeological field schools should give students both hands-on practical training in excavation and laboratory techniques as well as understanding the interface between theory and practice.
At the end of this field course, the students should:
1. understand archaeological research designs and their impacts on field investigations
2. have competence in field excavation and documentation methods (including basic mapping, use of total station, line-level, stratigraphic profiling, and excavation techniques).
3. understand basic problems in stratigraphy, taphonomy, and site formation and site disturbance factors
4. gain experience in field survey in Alaska remote settings
5. gain experience in working in remote field settings
6. evaluate the context of archaeological finds
Photos from the 2009-2014 Field Schools at Mead:
Excavating a 12,000 year-old hearth
A 13,300 year-old stone artifact scatter
2012 Field School
To read publications related to archaeology of Subarctic Alaska, see Dr. Potter's personal page.
This course begins at UAF, Fairbanks, Alaska, in Room 302, Bunnell Building on May 16, 9:00 AM. The Mead site is accessible by road via the Alaska Highway, though the site is 20 miles from the nearest town. Transportation from UAF to the site, trips to regional archaeological sites like Broken Mammoth and Gerstle River, and to and from Delta Junction is provided by UAF.
Life in the Field:
How to Apply and Costs:
You will need permission from the Instructor (Dr. Potter) to enroll. Please send to him (fax or email) the following documents:
Note: Due to the interest in this project, we have instituted the following application schedule:
Total costs (for ANTH-495)
UAF Summer Sessions has reduced tuition to in-state rates for all students, in-state or out of state. Contact Summer Sessions (below) for the tuition rate. Each student must have accident insurance coverage. This coverage can also be purchased from UAF for less than $5.00/day.
The University of Alaska is committed to equal opportunities for students experiencing disabilities. Due to the rigors of the fieldwork, students with disabilities are expected to notify the instructor of any potential difficulties prior to enrollment so that arrangements may be made to ensure a positive educational experience. Again, Instructor permission is required, so please contact Dr. Potter (firstname.lastname@example.org) to apply.
To receive a registration form, contact: