It has been a staple in the survival of Native Alaskans, as proven by evidence found that salmon fishing dates back to the Ice Age, concluding that the practice is much older than previously thought. Previous studies have estimated salmon to have been caught between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago in North America, but a new research has uncovered that it dates further back.
- Researchers found 300 fish bones at the Upward Sun River site
- They were dated 11,500 years ago, or even possibly more
- Initial studies believed that Native Alaskans relied solely on bigger game, squirrels or hares
Anthropologist Ben Potter at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who was in charge of the dig at the Upward Sun River site, in Interior Alaska, has discovered along with his team 300 fish bone fragments that date as far back as 11,500 years ago.
It’s the oldest proof ever found that Native Alaskans had salmon as part of their diet, as it has been previously thought by findings that they focused more grounded and bigger game, such as caribou. It altered researchers’ understanding on what sort of hunting strategies early hunters applied in order to keep themselves fed in the cold weather.
It has been estimated that they could’ve used nets, or very complex strategies and specialized technologies to catch their food.
According to Potter, these findings have significant implications about the settlement patterns of Alaskans, as it could have provided a predictable food source. Carbiou, for example, or other prey could be more unpredictable than the salmon, with its annual run upstream in very large numbers.
This behavior could have been tracked early on, and then settlements were adjusted in order for fishermen to catch the fish as an additional food source. It could mean that salmon patterns have been long established, and have ancient roots.
The remains are incredibly rare, as fish bones are naturally very fragile and do not withstand thousands of years passing with their structure so intact. In fact, there is a wide gap in archaeological findings where fish are concerned.
Scientists were fortunate enough to find salmon remains within a hearth at the Upward Sun River site, the same place where they found the oldest human remains in North American Arctic and Subarctic in 2013. The hearth provided for less exposure, and allowed the bones to maintain a far better structure through time.
The findings suggest that dietary habits of Native Alaskans were much more diverse earlier on than previously believed, but it also raises questions on how they were able to adapt to the end of the last Ice Age, and the climate changes that came with it.
Image source: centerforfoodsafety.org