Date of Award:

2013

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Advisor/Chair:

Christopher T. Losey

Abstract

Holocene climate likely influenced prehistoric hunter-gatherer subsistence and mobility as changing climate patterns affected food resources. Of interest here is whether climate-driven resource variability influenced peoples in the central Rocky Mountains. This study employed the z-score model to predict how foragers coped with resource variability. The exercise enabled exploration of the relationship between climate, resources, and foraging strategies at High Rise Village (48FR5891), an alpine residential site in Wyoming's Wind River Range occupied between 2800-250 cal B.P. The test was applied to occupations dating to the Medieval Warm Period (1150-550 cal B.P.) and the Little Ice Age (550-100 cal B.P.). Using regional characterizations of temporal variability for these climate periods, a z-score model was employed to develop predictions of how foragers coped with resource variability and predictability during both periods. The model predicted foraging decisions at High Rise Village that managed the risk of caloric shortfall during the slow-changing Medieval Warm Period and the highly variable Little Ice Age. Predictions for each period were tested against corresponding archaeological expectations for subsistence remains, mobility and technology requirements, and the frequency of site use. Further, this study employed a dendroclimatological study to locally characterize the climate periods and test model assumptions of their contrasting patterns of variability. The dendroclimatological study corroborates model assumptions and finds that the Medieval Warm Period was a period of multidecadal climatic variability and resource predictability while the Little Ice Age was characterized by short-term variability and resource unpredictability. Poor preservation of subsistence remains hampered the archaeological study. However, as expected, lithic and chronometric data indicate the site was used residentially and relatively frequently during the Medieval Warm Period, and that use decreased during the Little Ice Age. Medieval use of the site appears to be by Uinta Phase (1800-900 cal B.P.) foragers from the adjacent lowlands, and likely related to regional population pressure, as well as resource accessibility and predictability at High Rise Village. A dramatic decrease in site use predates the Little Ice Age and is likely related to regional population decrease and not LIA conditions at High Rise Village.

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