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Distinguishing Holocene Microblades from a Paleoindian Component at the Mesa Site, Alaska

Michael R. Bever
Journal of Field Archaeology
Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer, 2008), pp. 133-150
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25608502
Page Count: 18
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Distinguishing Holocene Microblades from a Paleoindian Component at the Mesa Site, Alaska
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Abstract

The terminal Pleistocene—early Holocene Mesa complex (ca. 9750-10,250 B.P. in uncalibrated radiocarbon years) of arctic Alaska, with its distinctive and technologically diagnostic bifacial tools, is often thought to be part of the broader Paleoindian tradition found throughout Pleistocene North America. In addition to artifacts of Paleoindian type, however, the Mesa site (type site of the Mesa complex) has a wedge-shaped core microblade technology, which is decidedly non-Paleoindian in character. Unfortunately, the Mesa is a shallow site, with no appreciable vertical structure or stratigraphic development. In essence, artifacts must be treated as if they were sitting on a single surface. This situation permits conflicting interpretations of the microblades and their relationship to the Paleoindian component. This paper presents a basic description of the microblades and associated artifacts at the Mesa site and the results of an analysis designed to discriminate these materials from the rest of the site assemblage. Using data on technology, raw material, and spatial patterning, I argue that the microblades and associated artifacts constitute a component that is distinct and separate from the Mesa Paleoindian component. The paper concludes with a discussion of several possible interpretations of the Mesa complex in light of these findings.

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