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Caribou hunting at ice patches: seasonal mobility and long-term land-use in the southwest Yukon Open Access


Other title
caribou dung
southwest Yukon
ice patches
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Bowyer, Vandy
Supervisor and department
Schweger, Charles (Anthropology)
Examining committee member and department
Ives, Jack (Anthropology)
Paszkowski, Cynthia (Biology)
Willoughby, Pam (Anthropology)
Kooyman, Brian (Archaeology, University of Calgary)
Friesen, Max Trevor (Anthropology, University of Toronto)
Department of Anthropology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Recently documented ice patch sites in the southwest Yukon are ideal for evaluating precontact hunter-gatherer land-use patterns in the western subarctic. Located in the alpine of the mountainous regions of the boreal forest, ice patches are associated with well preserved hunting equipment, caribou (Rangifer tarandus) dung and an abundance of faunal remains dating to over 8000 years ago. However, current models are inadequate for explaining caribou hunting at ice patches as they tend to emphasize large-scale communal hunts associated with latitudinal movements of caribou. Much less is known about the alititudinal movment of caribou and the associated hunting forays to ice patches in the alpine. Based on literature from caribou biology an altitudinal hunting model is proposed. During summer months caribou are predictable in their use of ice patches for relief from insect harassment. Pollen dated from caribou dung frozen in organic layers from the Granger (JdUt-1) and Friday Creek (JcUu-1) ice patches was analysed and compared to pollen assemblages from modern caribou dung to test whether ancient caribou were using these locations during summer months. The multivariate statistical technique, Nonmetric Mutlidimensional Scaling shows that ancient pollen assemblages are unlike any modern dung. Results indicate that pollen derived from dung is complex and various temporal transformations and taphonomic factors such as: (i) the use of modern analogue samples; (ii) changes in phenology; (iii) mode of pollination and; (iv) caribou feeding strategies must be understood before making interpretations on seasonality from dung pollen. I propose that a qualitative model of seasonal pollen signatures also be used to evaluate ancient pollen spectra, especially when there is no modern analogue. Regardless of these factors, the identification of a diversity of forbs and the presence of insect-pollinated taxa such as Polemonium and Epilobium suggest that some of the dung was deposited by caribou in the summer. Ancient hunters, knowing that caribou aggregate in mixed herds on ice patches in summer months, took advantage of this behaviour. Hunting equipment found on ice patches indicates that atlatls (8360± 60 to 1250± 40 yrs BP) and bow and arrows (1300 ± 70 to 90 ± 40 yrs BP) and hunting blinds were part of the ice hunting strategy. Faunal analysis suggests caribou was the primary game animal hunted at ice patches, although sheep (Ovis dalli) may have been important at some locations. Developing an altitudinal migration model provides a fuller picture of caribou hunting at alpine locations in the southwest Yukon and assists in understanding Holocene precontact hunting and land-use patterns in the western subarctic.
License granted by Vandy Bowyer ( on 2011-04-14T04:49:21Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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