Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Grand Canyon Projectile Points and Human Population Change
by Keltz, Ehren D., M.A., Northern Arizona University, 2019, 204; 13882750
Abstract (Summary)

In this thesis research project, I use projectile point type frequencies as a general and relative proxy for prehistoric human population levels at Grand Canyon National Park from approximately 13,000 to 800 years ago. Researchers over the years (Geib and Bungart 1989; Reed and Geib 2013; Smiley 1994, 2017) have developed assumptions about human populations over time in the Grand Canyon based on the numbers of sites identified to particular periods or by the frequency of radiocarbon dates from particular periods (Smiley 2017). I use a new metric and provide a new general test, projectile point frequency as a proxy for human population sizes, to test previous assumptions and to help identify population shifts. My metric is the frequencies of projectile points from the particular time periods during which population shifts are believed to have occurred.

Projectile points are some of the most visible and aesthetically engaging products of human technology. Using the proxy of points for population levels, I aim to investigate and trace the spatial and temporal ebb and flow of human occupation through approximately 13,000 years of climatic fluctuations across one of the greatest geophysical landscape features in North America – the Grand Canyon. The primary climatic periods examined are the post-Pleistocene (Early Archaic), the Altithermal warming episode (Middle Archaic), and the Late Archaic climate amelioration. I also identify prehistoric hunter-gatherer territory size variation by examining the spatial distribution of lithic raw materials used to produce the projectile points by various groups.

I set up a theoretical framework using Human Behavioral Ecology to predict correlations between human population levels and climatic fluctuations. To follow up my predictions, I use statistical software programs such as SPSS and GIS to test whether the projectile point type frequencies across time accord with the sensitivities of hunter-gatherer population density to the changing climatic conditions. In addition, I test whether the spatial distributions of lithic raw materials correlate with relative population levels. I expect the source distances of the Late Archaic raw materials, for example, to be relatively lower than raw material source distances for earlier occupations, given the apparent greater population densities and reduced territory sizes during this climatic period, which limited access to distant lithic raw materials.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Smiley, Francis E.
Commitee: Brennan, Ellen, Liebert, Melissa A., Thompson, Kerry F.
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 58/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology
Keywords: Grand canyon national park, Paleoclimate, Projectile points
Publication Number: 13882750
ISBN: 978-1-392-27587-0
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