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Significance of the Bluefish Caves in Beringian Prehistory – Page 6

– Page 6 –


  1. We refer here to Beringian options in the strict sense and to the concept of the “Mackenzie corridor” (Ives et al. 1989), without denying the value of the “coastal” hypothesis formulated by Fladmark (1979) and taken up by Gruhn (1988).

  2. The caves were discovered accidentally in 1975, and sampling and excavations were conducted intermittently between 1977 and 1987 (Cinq-Mars 1979 and 1982; Morlan and Cinq-Mars 1982).

  3. As analysis has demonstrated that the loess is not from the surrounding limestone landscape (C. Tarnocai, pers. comm.), we must seek its origin in sediments that became available following the drainage of the lake basins to the north (Bluefish and Old Crow glacial lakes).

  4. Results of a study of part of the microtine assemblages from Caves I and II, recently conducted by R. Morlan (1989), provide another example of this contrast.

  5. All the dates of faunal specimens were run on bone collagen and, but for two exceptions, were obtained by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), thanks to R.M. Brown (Atomic Energy of Canada) and E. Nelson (Simon Fraser University).

  6. The controversy concerns the precise nature and the relative viability of the Beringian environment during the Last Glacial Maximum. The whole question is known as that of the “productivity paradox” (Schweger et al. 1982). Some (Cwynar and Ritchie 1980) assert that these regions could have supported, at best, a greatly impoverished biome, while others contend that the environment was extremely rich (Guthrie 1985; Matthews 1982).

  7. Two objects (a core and a microblade fragment) were discovered in the humus-rich rubble of Cave II, in a highly disturbed context. Surface finds of small chips and a microblade were also made on top of one of the ridges of the Bluefish limestone outcrop.

  8. Bluefish limestone does not contain chert. The few examples of this material found in the region (in several rocky outcrops to the east of the caves or in the form of pebbles on the river bars) are of very poor quality. We also know that cherts similar to those found in Caves I and II occur in a number of archaeological sites located about 100 kilometres to the north, in the Cordilleran foothills (Brooks, British and Barn mountains).

  9. These flakes, generally smaller than 0.003 m, were collected during the processing of sediment samples (Cinq-Mars 1979; Fladmark 1982).

  10. To date, these cut marks, which are often difficult to read, have been examined with a binocular microscope. We plan in the near future to confirm our findings with the help of scanning electron microscopy (SEM), following the procedure suggested by Shipman (1981).

  11. This flake also belongs to the previous category, as the dorsal face exhibits a short cut mark.

  12. This technological complex is better known in Siberia as the Dyuktai culture or tradition (Mochanov 1978, 1980). Although it would not be appropriate here to discuss its origins, age and significance, we should mention that these issues are far from being resolved (Dolitsky 1985; Yi and Clark 1985). Nevertheless, according to these authors, there appears to be clear evidence of its presence in northeastern Siberia at the end of the Glacial Maximum, around 18,000 BP. This is in agreement with the age that we would assign to it in eastern Beringia, on the basis of the Bluefish data.

  13. The location of the cultural manifestations studied by Powers and Hoffecker (1989) can perhaps be explained by the fact that at the end of the Late Glacial, the Nenana valley and several neighbouring regions served as refugia where survived the last traces of the herbaceous tundra and Mammoth Steppe fauna. It can be assumed that the human groups who were living there were carrying on with modes of adaptation which were probably pan-Beringian, and of necessity, derived from earlier times.

  14. The reader can find a critique (Cinq-Mars and Morlan 1989) of the counter-hypotheses which view the percussion-flaked mammoth bones found in the fossiliferous deposits of the Old Crow River as having been shaped by various natural phenomena. We do not, however, altogether deny the validity of these counter-hypotheses as possible explanations for several other types of modifications found on the bones of various other taxa.

  15. We refer here to the theses put forward by Paul Martin (1982) and Vance Haynes (1982).

  16. Without necessarily accepting them outright, we refer to sites such as Meadowcroft (Adovasio and Carlisle 1986), Monte Verde (Dillehay and Collins 1988), Toca do Boqueirao da Pedra Furada (Guidon and Delibrias 1986) and Taima-Taima (Gruhn and Bryan 1984). On the other hand, it is clear that the Beringian chronological frame of reference that we have tried to illustrate, unlike that proposed by Irving and his colleagues (Irving et al. 1986), still cannot accommodate a site such as Toca da Esperança (de Lumley et al. 1987).

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