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32nd Annual Arctic Workshop Abstracts
March 14-16, 2002
INSTAAR, University of Colorado at Boulder

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MICROBLADE MORPHOLOGY AND TRACE ELEMENT ANALYSIS: AN EXAMINATION OF OBSIDIAN ARTIFACTS FROM ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE 49-PET-408

AUTHORS

LEE, CRAIG M. Dept. of Anthropology & INSTAAR, University of Colorado-Boulder.

49-PET-408 (On Your Knees Cave) is an archeological and paleontological site located on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska (Dixon et al. 1997). 49-PET-408 was used periodically by humans between c. 10,300 14C BP and c. 1,200 14C BP with the most extensive occupations occurring between c. 9,300 and 7,500 14C BP (Dixon 2002).

Obsidian artifacts from 49-PET-408 are made from non-local raw materials requiring long distance transportation and/or trade to access. Visually identifiable characteristics of obsidian artifacts, such as color and translucency, have been correlated through trace element analysis to specific source areas in British Columbia (Mount Edziza, circa 200 air-miles distant) and southeastern Alaska (Sumez Island, circa 65 air-miles distant)(Lee 2001). Metric attributes of the obsidian microblades indicate specific morphologies (i.e., width, thickness, etc.) vary between artifacts manufactured from the two sources. Although these differences could result from slight variations in production occurring between different occupations or even differences between individual flintknappers, they might also reflect varying degrees of reduction owing to the obsidian sources’ relative distances from 49-PET-408. A recent comparison of 31 quartz crystal microblades from 49-PET-408 with the 92 obsidian microblades examined previously by Lee (2001) suggests that the observed differences in microblade morphology at 49-PET-408 are a result of raw material variation inherent in the two sources of obsidian and the quartz crystals.

Analysts interested in microblade technology frequently group measurements drawn from a given site together, regardless of material type, to form a composite “profile” of the morphology of a given microblade assemblage. However, if raw material variation significantly affects microblade morphology and assemblages containing different proportions of microblades made from various material types were compared, any patterning that results from human behavior, such as variation in manufacturing techniques, might be rendered invisible. Based on the intra-assemblage variation present at 49-PET-408, future inter-assemblage examinations of microblade morphology need to address the effects of raw material variation on microblade form.

REFERENCES
Dixon, E.J.

2002 49-PET-408 (On Your Knees Cave), An Overview. Published Abstracts, 67th Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archaeology, Denver.



Dixon, E.J., T.H. Heaton, T.E. Fifield, T.D. Hamilton, D.E. Putnam, and F. Grady

1997 Late Quaternary Regional Geoarchaeology of Southeast Alaska Karst: A Progress Report. Geoarchaeology 12(6):689-712.



Lee, C.M.

2001 Microblade Morphology and Trace Element Analysis: An examination of Obsidian Artifacts from Archaeological Site 49-PET-408. Unpublished Masteràs thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Wyoming, Laramie.

 

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