Archaeological Field School, May 29 - July 7, Alaska

14 April 2000

Those interested in the Archaeological Field School at Gerstle River Quarry
should contact the Instructor, Ben A. Potter, General
Admissions information for the University of Alaska Fairbanks is located at

Course Listing
ANTH-495 F61
Archaeological Field School: Gerstle River Quarry
May 29 - July 7
8 am - 5 pm Daily
6 credits

Course Description

This course consists of archaeological excavations in the Tanana basin at
Gerstle River Quarry (49XMH-246), an important Early Holocene
multi-component site (10,000-9,000 yrs BP). Through practical fieldwork,
students will gain experience in the basics of excavation, artifact
analysis, instrument-generated mapping (transit), archaeological
photography, data recording, and artifact processing. Basic archaeological
concepts and methods will be presented, as well as special topics including
the peopling of the Americas, Siberian Paleolithic technology, Alaskan
archaeology and taphonomic processes common to the Subarctic, and human
ecology. Specialists in Alaskan archaeology, geology, geomorphology, and
paleoecology, including Drs. S. Craig Gerlach, Owen K. Mason, and Charles E.
Holmes, will be present for special lectures at camp and in the field. The
first few days will include orientation, examination of Nenana and Denali
artifacts (11,800 to 7,000 yrs BP), and a visit to the University of Alaska
Museum. Special field trips will be made to several important early American
sites, including Broken Mammoth, Donnelly Ridge, Campus Site, and (time
permitting) Teklanika West and Dry Creek.


The site is accessible by road via the Alaska Highway, though the site lies
30 miles from the nearest town. Students must provide their own
transportation to Fairbanks, and all subsequent transportation will be
provided by the Field School or the Instructor.

Life in the field

A base camp will be established in Delta Junction, and the site will be
accessed by van. The base camp will include showers, water, telephone, and
is within walking distance to restaurants, grocery stores, and the like. All
excavation equipment, supplies, food, housing, and transportation to and
from the site and Fairbanks will be provided by the University of Alaska
Fairbanks or the Instructor. Students will be expected to provide their own
sleeping bags, outdoor clothing, good work boots, rain gear, and tents. In
addition to excavation duties, students will also participate in camp chores
(mainly cooking). Food will be purchased by the instructor prior to and
during the field school. While we will be working between 5 - 6 days a week,
days off can be spent hiking, fishing, sightseeing, canoeing, or lounging.

Field Location

The Tanana River Basin is located in the central Interior portion of Alaska
and the local vegetation consists of interior upland spruce-hardwood forest
floral communities (white and black spruce, poplar, willow, and mosses),
with south facing slopes maintaining xeric floral commnities typified by
sagebrush. The Alaska Range is visible from 10 to 15 miles south of the
site. Summer weather is generally moderate to warm (70°-80°F), though some
cold nights (40°s F) may occur. A variety of wildlife is present in the site
area, including brown and black bears, moose, caribou, foxes, and other
furbearers. The field camp will be based in Delta Junction, a small town 30
miles to the northwest with several restaurants. Nearby recreational
activities include hiking, camping, canoeing, prospecting, fishing, biking,
and sightseeing (two historic roadhouses are located in town).

The earliest cultural complexes in the Americas are found in the Tanana
Basin, including the Nenana/Chindadn (11,660 BP) found at Broken Mammoth,
and Denali/Beringian (11,770 BP) found at Swan Point. There is a potential
for discovering lower components at the Gerstle River Quarry Site. Northern
Archaic populations utilized the basin from 5000 to 1000 yrs BP, and
Athabaskan Tradition populations used the area until historic times. The
paleoenvironmental record is especially significant at the Gerstle River
Quarry Site because of its preservation of stratified sediments dating from
before 10,000 to 3,000 yr BP. Such a large middle Holocene record is unusual
in Interior Alaska and the presence of faunal remains (Bear and Elk) in this
time period is important for paleoecological research.

Site description

Gerstle River Quarry Site had three components identified in 1999, dating to
8860, 9510, and between 9510 and 9760 RCYBP. CIII consists of a hearth,
artifacts (microblades, burins, burin spalls, boulder spall scrapers, and
endscrapers), as well as multiple individuals of locally extinct bison and
wapiti, including many articulated specimens A worked rod of mammoth tusk
was also recovered, making this site one of the latest using mammoth ivory.
CII consists of a firepit and artifacts (microblades, microblade core parts,
burin spalls). CI consists of debitage. Due to time constraints in 1999, we
did not excavate to bedrock in all areas. Earlier paleosols (buried soils)
and cultural horizons are possible; and there have been older faunal
specimens found in eroded contexts, including a Horse radius dated to 15
090+/-70 BP. This year's work will focus on expanding activity areas and
excavating the bluff edge.

How to apply
For additional information and registration form contact:

Ben A. Potter, Lecturer
Department of Anthropology
University of Alaska Fairbanks
P.O. Box 757720
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7220
907-474-7543 fax

Enrollment in Summer Sessions

To receive a registration form and a catalog that fully describes Summer
Sessions 2000 courses, contact:

Summer Sessions
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 757540
Fairbanks Alaska 99775-7540
907-474-5297 fax

Tuition and Fees

Students attending classes on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus pay
an Activity Fee of $1 per credit hour. All students are assessed a
Technology Fee of $5 per credit hour. Tuition rates are subject to change.

Course Division Tuition/credit hour
300-499 undergraduate upper division $87

Non-residents add a surcharge of $164 per credit hour.

TOTAL CHARGE (resident): ($1122)
$600 room and board, transportation to the site
$522 tuition (6 upper-division credits)