Back to the Source: 40th Meeting of the Alaska Anthropological Association

I just got home from Anchorage, Alaska, where I spent the last few days at the Alaska Anthropological Association Meetings.  I presented a paper on my work with northern ceramics as part of the Cape Espenberg Session.  I focused on the challenges specific to studying northern ceramics, including methodological issues, environmental constraints, and mobility issues particular to hunter-gatherer groups.  I did not end up having much time to talk about how I am addressing some of these issues in my continued work at Cape Espenberg (oops), so it looks like I have a ready topic for next year’s meetings.

CE ceramic challenges

I really enjoyed the other Espenberg Project Papers – Owen Mason gave a project overview and also talked about cultural processes (warfare, demography, and migration) at the site.  Nancy Bigelow discussed the paleoenvironment during our study period (AD 800 to 1400).  Lauren Norman shared zooarchaeological data for one of the excavated houses.  Claire Alix focused on boat parts recovered in our excavation, including a discussion of changing boat technology and age of the materials from Espenberg.  Kory Cooper et al. presented sourcing results for several metal objects recovered from Espenberg.  Dennis O’Rourke discussed the potential of DNA study to address some of our questions about human populations, demography, and diet in the Arctic.  Finally, Angelique Neffe shared the results of her on-going study of nephrite and amber working technology at the site.  I am looking forward to papers by the UC-Davis part of the team (Chris and John Darwent, plus students) at the SAAs in a few weeks.  Our work at the site complex is really coming together.

There were so many great papers and of course I could not see them all.  A few that I did see and enjoyed because they made me think a bit more about some of my data sets included: various sourcing papers (Phoebe Gilbert at the NPS is sourcing jade!) the papers in the Volcanism session organized by Richard Vanderhoek, the Island Archaeology session organized by Diane Hansen (including Patrick’s talk – cool spatial patterns in the settlement data over time!), the Reindeer Herding Session organized by Dale Vinson, Patrick Plattet, and Amber Lincoln, and various papers on the melding of ethnohistoric and ethnographic records with archaeological data.

Coastal Range from the plane window (Photo by Shelby Anderson)

Coastal Range from the plane window (Photo by Shelby Anderson)

The theme of the 40th conference was “Back to the Source”, specifically the doing and sharing of our work in collaboration with communities.  I did not address the theme at all in my talk, but there were many other sessions and papers that did focus on collaborative research in Alaskan Anthropology – it was an impressive array of papers on an important topic.  All wrapped up with a Belzoni Meeting and cheep beer on Saturday night.

Coming up in the next few weeks, the Northwest Anthropological Conference hosted by Portland State and the SAA meetings in Honolulu.  Then back to Alaska for fieldwork in June – it’s coming up fast!

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