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Arctic Small Tool Tradition


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Small‐scale hunter‐gatherer communities settled around the Alaskan peninsula and the eastern shores of the Bering Strait from about 2000 bc. They may have originated among the Bel'kachinsk farmers of the Aldan River in Siberia. At about the same time, Arctic Small Tool Tradition communities also appear among the islands of northern Canada and in western Greenland.

Arctic Small Tool Tradition groups, also known in Alaska as the Denbigh Flint Complex, shared the widespread use of a micro‐lithic stone industry. Stone tools include delicately made blades, microburins, burins, scrapers, and adzes. The most important innovation they brought to North America was the bow and arrow. Bifacially worked projectile points were made to tip the wooden arrowshafts. The main quarry was caribou and waterfowl.

Settlements were often small, represented archaeologically by stone scatters and traces of a tented encampment. More permanent structures in the form of square semi‐subterranean houses are known where settlements take advantage of especially abundant food resources. By c.800 bc, the Arctic Small Tool Tradition had given way to a series of localized distinctive traditions, for example the Pre‐Dorset and the Norton.

Subjects: Archaeology.


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