Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Department of Sociology and Anthropology


Julie Solometo

Dennis Blanton

Leslie Harlacker


This project examines prehistoric human mobility and raw material preference for tool manufacture in a 45,918 square mile portion of Interior Alaska, the Tanana River Drainage. A geographic approach is used to investigate the distribution of prehistoric obsidian and rhyolitic artifacts in relation to the sources of these materials. The objective of the investigation is to reveal spatial patterning in the distributions of artifacts made of these two materials, relative to each other and relative to the cost of obtaining these raw materials from their sources on the landscape. I examine a hypothesis based in human behavioral ecology and optimal foraging theory, that if prehistoric hunter-gatherers acted to optimize their energy expenditure they could be expected to favor raw materials with the lowest cost of acquisition. Thus we may expect that a given site will contain a significantly higher proportion of low cost materials than high cost materials. The frequencies of different raw material types are examined for thirty-five sites with artifact assemblages that have identified source groups. Those frequencies are compared with geographic information systems models of travel cost. The results of the analysis suggest that the hypothesis does not represent a complete picture of prehistoric human behavior. Divergence from the hypothesis is explained with respect to the relative quality of the raw materials and the inventory of tool types of each material at the sites. A more realistic model of human behavior that was concluded from additional analyses was that prehistoric hunter-gatherers may have exploited group A rhyolite opportunistically while foraging along the mountain ridges in the summer, and obtained Wiki Peak and Batza Téna obsidian while following game along the frozen Tanana River in the winter.



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