Over 15 Palaeolithic cooking hearths discovered in Alaska

The Upward Sun River site in central Alaska revealed remains of hearths that served as cooking pits for people living in the area between 13200-11500 BC. Abundance of salmon remains, discovered within these features sheds new light on the diet of the Palaeolithic people, as this is the oldest evidence of cooking salmon in the New World.

Excavations at Upward Sun River site (by Western Digs)
Excavations at Upward Sun River site (by Western Digs)

It was commonly believed that the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers lived on a diet consisting mainly of land animals, such as bison, mammoth, and elk. This new find was possible to make thanks to the technology of studying charred remains through stable isotope analysis, allowing to examine the chemistry of charcoal samples from each of the pits. Concentrations of various chemical isotopes can be traced to certain types of food. The study revealed that 10 of the 17 hearths contained the unique chemical signature fat from chum salmon, also known as keta. The evidence of salmon cooking was most abundant around 11,800 years ago. The other pits contained evidence of freshwater fish and land animals. The pits were used for preparing different kinds of food over the course of thousands of years.

(after Western Digs)

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