Archaeological otoliths as environmental recorders: high resolution sampling of pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) otoliths from Kiska Island, Alaska

Young-Boyle, Chandra (2015) Archaeological otoliths as environmental recorders: high resolution sampling of pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus) otoliths from Kiska Island, Alaska. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Archaeological fish otoliths have the potential to serve as proxies for both season of site occupation and palaeoclimate conditions. By sampling along the distinctive sub-annual seasonal bands of the otolith and completing a stable isotope (δ¹⁸O, δ¹³C) analysis, variations within the fish’s environment can be identified. Through the analysis of cod otoliths from two archaeological sites on Kiska Island, Gertrude Cove (KIS-010) and Witchcraft Point (KIS-005), this research evaluates a micromilling methodological approach to extracting climatic data from archaeological cod otoliths. In addition, δ¹⁸Ootolith data and radiocarbon dates frame a discussion of Pacific cod harvesting, site occupation, and changing climatic conditions on Kiska Island. To aid in the interpretation of the archaeological Pacific cod results, archaeological and modern Atlantic cod otoliths were also analyzed as a component of this study to develop. The Atlantic cod otoliths provided the methodological and interpretative framework for the study, and also served to assess the efficacy of this sampling strategy for archaeological materials and to add time-depth to existing datasets. The δ¹⁸Ootolith values successfully illustrate relative variation in ambient water temperature. The Pacific cod δ¹⁸O values demonstrate a weak seasonal signal identifiable up to year 3, followed by relatively stable values until year 6/7 when values continuously increase. Based on the δ¹⁸O values, the Pacific cod were exposed to the coldest water temperatures immediately prior to capture. The lack of a clear cycle of seasonal variation and the continued increase in values towards the otolith edge obscures the season of capture, and indicates that other behavioural, environmental, or methodological factors influenced the otolith δ¹⁸O values. It is suggested that Pacific cod would have been harvested throughout the year, and the presence of cod remains in Aleutian archaeological sites cannot be used as a reliable indicator of summer occupation. In addition, when the δ¹⁸O otolith values are integrated with radiocarbon dates and known climatic regimes, it is demonstrated that climatic conditions play an integral role in the pattern of occupation at Gertrude Cove. Initial site occupation coincides with the end of a neoglacial cooling period, and the most recent and continuous occupation coincides with the end of a localized warming period and the onset of the Little Ice Age (LIA).

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 11744
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 164-179).
Keywords: Pacific cod, Otolith, Aleutian Islands, Stable Isotope, Palaeoclimate, Seasonality
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Archaeology
Date: December 2015
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Alaska--Kiska Island
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Otoliths, Fossil--Alaska--Kiska Island; Paleoclimatology--Alaska--Kiska Island; Fish remains (Archaeology)--Alaska--Kiska Island; Pacific cod fisheries--History

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