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Jordan, J.W., 2000

Late Quaternary coastal environments and human occupation of the western Alaska Peninsula

Bibliographic Reference

Jordan, J.W., 2000, Late Quaternary coastal environments and human occupation of the western Alaska Peninsula: University of Wisconsin, Madison, Ph.D. dissertation, 186 p., illust., maps.


This dissertation examines the relationship between coastal landscape change and the record of human occupation of the western 100 km of the Alaska Peninsula in southwest Alaska. Soils and landforms of the western Alaska Peninsula and eastern Aleutian Islands preserve records of climate and geomorphic change that span the terminal Pleistocene and Holocene. The amplitude of Holocene climate changes has been dampened by the region's maritime setting but changes in the position and strength of the North Pacific High and Aleutian Low-pressure centers have had recognizable effects on vegetation and landscape development. While shoreline development has been influenced by marine climate during the late Holocene, isostasy and seismic activity have dominated coastal paleogeography since deglaciation. Prehistoric villages appear in coastal areas after 5000 yr B.P.; village organization, technology, and faunal data indicate sedentism and a fully developed maritime economy. Landscape instability influenced adaptive strategies, settlement patterns, and the preservation potential of sites. This study demonstrates that past human responses to dynamic, local environmental change may have affected the economies and settlement systems of adjacent groups. Investigations of the mechanisms, rates, and intensity of geomorphic change are critical for understanding not only prehistoric human adaptations, but also for predicting and mitigating the consequences of future environmental change.

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