Archaeoentomological research at the precontact site of Nunalleq (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries AD), Southwest Alaska, has identified hundreds of lice and fleas that infested both the human inhabitants of the site and their canine companions. As lice are host specific, staying attached to the host’s hair or fur during the totality of their lifecycle, they are generally considered excellent indicators of activity areas. Fleas, however, are relatively less common in archaeological contexts and, since they are mobile and able to infest several different host species, their potential use in the spatial reconstruction of activities is more limited. At Nunalleq, the study of insects from the most recent archaeological contexts produced very different spatial distribution patterns for human lice, fleas, and dog lice. This article compares these archaeoentomological data with other datasets available for the site (carrion-feeding flies, human hair, fur, coprolites, projectile points, and pieces of clothing) with the aim of establishing the phenomena that produced the distinct spatial distributions observed.
This project was funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant
agreement no. 703322, as well as through a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK (AH/K006029/1). The authors wish to thank Warren Jones and Qanirtuuq Inc. for their logistical support in the field, as well as the inhabitants of Quinhagak for warm hospitality over several summers. Thanks are also due to all the students, staff, and volunteers who
participated in excavations at Nunalleq from 2013 to 2015. This study, including the use of images, has been undertaken with the permission of Qanirtuuq Inc. and the village of Quinhagak.