Why did northern hunter gatherers adopt pottery technology given the challenges of making pottery in arctic and sub-arctic environments? Archaeologists have offered various hypotheses such as: the adoption of ceramic technology was related to dietary change, or an increased need for storage, and/or a need for the efficiency ceramic cooking vessels offer over other types of container technology.
In northern Alaska, the initial adoption of ceramic technology about 2800 years ago coincides with evidence of increased reliance on maritime resources and an increase in residential sedentism. It is possible that an expansion of diet breadth that included the incorporation of more marine foods led northern Alaskans to invest in ceramic technology.
As first step towards investigating this hypothesis, Anderson is working with Shannon Tushingham (Washington State University) and Tammy Buonasera (Arizona State University) to conduct lipid and isotopic analysis of ceramics from northwest Alaska. The results of this project are forthcoming.