Three Generations Under One Roof? Bayesian Modeling of Radiocarbon Data from Nunalleq, Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska

Paul M. Ledger*, Véronique Forbes, Edouard Masson-Maclean, Charlotta Hillerdal, W. Derek Hamilton, Ellen McManus-Fry, Ana Jorge, Kate Britton, Richard A. Knecht

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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This article presents the results of a program of radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modeling from the precontact Yup'ik site of Nunalleq (GDN-248) in subarctic southwestern Alaska. Nunalleq is deeply stratified, presenting a robust relative chronological framework of well-defined individual house floors abundant in ecofacts suitable for radiocarbon dating. Capitalizing on this potential, we present the results of one of the first applications of Bayesian statistical modeling of radiocarbon data from an archaeological site in the North American Arctic. Using these methods, we demonstrate that it is possible to generate robust, high-resolution chronological models from Arctic archaeology. Radiocarbon dates, procured prior to the program of dating and modeling presented here, suggested an approximately three-century duration of occupation at the site. The results of Bayesian modeling nuance this interpretation. While it is possible that there may have been activity for almost three centuries (beginning in the late fourteenth century), occupation of the dwelling complex, which dominates the site, was more likely to have endured for no more than a century. The results presented here suggest that the occupation of Nunalleq likely encompassed three generations beginning cal AD 1570-1630 before being curtailed by conflict around cal AD 1645-1675.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-524
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number3
Early online date3 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments. This research was funded through an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant (AH/K006029/1) awarded to Drs. Rick Knecht, Charlotta Hillerdal, and Kate Britton, and two NERC Radiocarbon Facility grants (NF/2015/1/6 and NF/2015/2/3) awarded to Drs. Rick Knecht and Paul Ledger. Véronique Forbes received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement number 703322. Excavations at Nunalleq have also benefited from the support of the local community who have made us all feel at home in Quinhagak. In particular, we wish to thank Qanirtuuq Incorporated and Warren Jones for logistical support and their consistently warm hospitality. Thanks also to Philip Ashlock who took the aerial image
presented in Figure 3. We also wish to acknowledge the
contribution of all of the students and researchers who have
excavated at Nunalleq between 2009 and 2015. Without
their hard work and dedication, in sometimes challenging
conditions, this article would not have been possible. Finally,
we wish to thank three anonymous reviewers and Robert
Kelly for constructive criticism that has helped improved
this manuscript. Permission for excavations at Nunalleq was
granted by Qanirtuuq Incorporated.


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