New research reveals salmon played an important role in the diets of ice-age Alaskans. The information comes from an archaeological dig on the Tanana. Two University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists applied new techniques to uncover clues about the lives of Alaska Natives almost 12,000 years ago.

This isn’t the first time new insights into the lives of ice-age Alaskans have come from the Upward Sun River site. Besides cremated human remains, the archaeological dig on the banks of the Tanana River has revealed some 17 cooking hearths of ancient people stretching aback more than 13 thousand years.  UAF Anthropology professor Ben Potter is the key researcher of the dig and he says he and his colleagues had previously uncovered salmon bones more than 11 thousand years old.

“We had to get the genetic analyses to identify what species it was, and it was chum salmon,” Potter said. “And so the isotopic analyses to show that they were marine. In other words that they were behaving as chum salmon do today.”

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