Publications by authors named "Ben A Potter"

12 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Ancient Beringian paleodiets revealed through multiproxy stable isotope analyses.

Sci Adv 2020 Sep 4;6(36). Epub 2020 Sep 4.

Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA.

The earliest Native Americans have often been portrayed as either megafaunal specialists or generalist foragers, but this debate cannot be resolved by studying the faunal record alone. Stable isotope analysis directly reveals the foods consumed by individuals. We present multi-tissue isotope analyses of two Ancient Beringian infants from the Upward Sun River site (USR), Alaska (~11,500 years ago). Models of fetal bone turnover combined with seasonally-sensitive taxa show that the carbon and nitrogen isotope composition of USR infant bone collagen reflects maternal diets over the summer. Using comparative faunal isotope data, we demonstrate that although terrestrial sources dominated maternal diets, salmon was also important, supported by carbon isotope analysis of essential amino acids and bone bioapatite. Tooth enamel samples indicate increased salmon use between spring and summer. Our results do not support either strictly megafaunal specialists or generalized foragers but indicate that Ancient Beringian diets were complex and seasonally structured.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abc1968DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7473743PMC
September 2020

Palaeo-Eskimo genetic ancestry and the peopling of Chukotka and North America.

Nature 2019 06 5;570(7760):236-240. Epub 2019 Jun 5.

Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA.

Much of the American Arctic was first settled 5,000 years ago, by groups of people known as Palaeo-Eskimos. They were subsequently joined and largely displaced around 1,000 years ago by ancestors of the present-day Inuit and Yup'ik. The genetic relationship between Palaeo-Eskimos and Native American, Inuit, Yup'ik and Aleut populations remains uncertain. Here we present genomic data for 48 ancient individuals from Chukotka, East Siberia, the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and the Canadian Arctic. We co-analyse these data with data from present-day Alaskan Iñupiat and West Siberian populations and published genomes. Using methods based on rare-allele and haplotype sharing, as well as established techniques, we show that Palaeo-Eskimo-related ancestry is ubiquitous among people who speak Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut languages. We develop a comprehensive model for the Holocene peopling events of Chukotka and North America, and show that Na-Dene-speaking peoples, people of the Aleutian Islands, and Yup'ik and Inuit across the Arctic region all share ancestry from a single Palaeo-Eskimo-related Siberian source.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1251-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6942545PMC
June 2019

A new terrestrial palaeoenvironmental record from the Bering Land Bridge and context for human dispersal.

R Soc Open Sci 2018 Jun 20;5(6):180145. Epub 2018 Jun 20.

Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA.

Palaeoenvironmental records from the now-submerged Bering Land Bridge (BLB) covering the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the present are needed to document changing environments and connections with the dispersal of humans into North America. Moreover, terrestrially based records of environmental changes are needed in close proximity to the re-establishment of circulation between Pacific and Atlantic Oceans following the end of the last glaciation to test palaeo-climate models for the high latitudes. We present the first terrestrial temperature and hydrologic reconstructions from the LGM to the present from the BLB's south-central margin. We find that the timing of the earliest unequivocal human dispersals into Alaska, based on archaeological evidence, corresponds with a shift to warmer/wetter conditions on the BLB between 14 700 and 13 500 years ago associated with the early Bølling/Allerød interstadial (BA). These environmental changes could have provided the impetus for eastward human dispersal at that time, from Western or central Beringia after a protracted human population standstill. Our data indicate substantial climate-induced environmental changes on the BLB since the LGM, which would potentially have had significant influences on megafaunal and human biogeography in the region.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.180145DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6030284PMC
June 2018

Current evidence allows multiple models for the peopling of the Americas.

Sci Adv 2018 08 8;4(8):eaat5473. Epub 2018 Aug 8.

Department of Anthropology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA.

Some recent academic and popular literature implies that the problem of the colonization of the Americas has been largely resolved in favor of one specific model: a Pacific coastal migration, dependent on high marine productivity, from the Bering Strait to South America, thousands of years before Clovis, the earliest widespread cultural manifestation south of the glacial ice. Speculations on maritime adaptations and typological links (stemmed points) across thousands of kilometers have also been advanced. A review of the current genetic, archeological, and paleoecological evidence indicates that ancestral Native American population expansion occurred after 16,000 years ago, consistent with the archeological record, particularly with the earliest securely dated sites after ~15,000 years ago. These data are largely consistent with either an inland (ice-free corridor) or Pacific coastal routes (or both), but neither can be rejected at present. Systematic archeological and paleoecological investigations, informed by geomorphology, are required to test each hypothesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aat5473DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6082647PMC
August 2018

Terminal Pleistocene Alaskan genome reveals first founding population of Native Americans.

Nature 2018 01 3;553(7687):203-207. Epub 2018 Jan 3.

Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark.

Despite broad agreement that the Americas were initially populated via Beringia, the land bridge that connected far northeast Asia with northwestern North America during the Pleistocene epoch, when and how the peopling of the Americas occurred remains unresolved. Analyses of human remains from Late Pleistocene Alaska are important to resolving the timing and dispersal of these populations. The remains of two infants were recovered at Upward Sun River (USR), and have been dated to around 11.5 thousand years ago (ka). Here, by sequencing the USR1 genome to an average coverage of approximately 17 times, we show that USR1 is most closely related to Native Americans, but falls basal to all previously sequenced contemporary and ancient Native Americans. As such, USR1 represents a distinct Ancient Beringian population. Using demographic modelling, we infer that the Ancient Beringian population and ancestors of other Native Americans descended from a single founding population that initially split from East Asians around 36 ± 1.5 ka, with gene flow persisting until around 25 ± 1.1 ka. Gene flow from ancient north Eurasians into all Native Americans took place 25-20 ka, with Ancient Beringians branching off around 22-18.1 ka. Our findings support a long-term genetic structure in ancestral Native Americans, consistent with the Beringian 'standstill model'. We show that the basal northern and southern Native American branches, to which all other Native Americans belong, diverged around 17.5-14.6 ka, and that this probably occurred south of the North American ice sheets. We also show that after 11.5 ka, some of the northern Native American populations received gene flow from a Siberian population most closely related to Koryaks, but not Palaeo-Eskimos, Inuits or Kets, and that Native American gene flow into Inuits was through northern and not southern Native American groups. Our findings further suggest that the far-northern North American presence of northern Native Americans is from a back migration that replaced or absorbed the initial founding population of Ancient Beringians.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature25173DOI Listing
January 2018

Chemical profiling of ancient hearths reveals recurrent salmon use in Ice Age Beringia.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2016 08;113(35):9757-62

Water and Environmental Research Center, Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775; Alaska Stable Isotope Facility, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775;

Current approaches to reconstruct subsistence and dietary trends in ancient hunter-gatherer societies include stable isotope analyses, but these have focused on human remains, cooking pottery, and food residues, which are relatively rare in the archaeological record. In contrast, short-term hearths are more ubiquitous worldwide, and these features can provide valuable evidence for ancient subsistence practices, particularly when faunal remains are not preserved. To test the suitability of hearths for this purpose, we conducted multiple chemical analyses: stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses of total organic matter (expressed as δ(13)C and δ(15)N values) and compound-specific carbon isotope analyses of individual fatty acids (δ(13)C16:0 and δ(13)C18:0) from 17 well-preserved hearths present in three occupations dating between ∼13,200-11,500 calibrated years B.P. at the Upward Sun River (USR) site in central Alaska. We combined δ(15)N and δ(13)CFA data in a Bayesian mixing model (stable isotope analysis in R) with concentration dependency to each hearth. Our model values were tested against faunal indices, indicating a strong positive relationship between marine proportional contributions to each hearth and salmon abundance. Results of the models show substantial anadromous salmon use in multiple USR components, indicating recurrent use of the site for salmon processing during the terminal Pleistocene. Our results demonstrate that salmonid and freshwater resources were more important for late Pleistocene hunter-gatherers than previously thought and highlight the potential of chemical profiling of hearth organic residues for providing greater geographic and temporal insights into resource use by prepottery societies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1606219113DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5024613PMC
August 2016

Postglacial viability and colonization in North America's ice-free corridor.

Nature 2016 09 10;537(7618):45-49. Epub 2016 Aug 10.

Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen 1350, Denmark.

During the Last Glacial Maximum, continental ice sheets isolated Beringia (northeast Siberia and northwest North America) from unglaciated North America. By around 15 to 14 thousand calibrated radiocarbon years before present (cal. kyr bp), glacial retreat opened an approximately 1,500-km-long corridor between the ice sheets. It remains unclear when plants and animals colonized this corridor and it became biologically viable for human migration. We obtained radiocarbon dates, pollen, macrofossils and metagenomic DNA from lake sediment cores in a bottleneck portion of the corridor. We find evidence of steppe vegetation, bison and mammoth by approximately 12.6 cal. kyr bp, followed by open forest, with evidence of moose and elk at about 11.5 cal. kyr bp, and boreal forest approximately 10 cal. kyr bp. Our findings reveal that the first Americans, whether Clovis or earlier groups in unglaciated North America before 12.6 cal. kyr bp, are unlikely to have travelled by this route into the Americas. However, later groups may have used this north-south passageway.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature19085DOI Listing
September 2016

Two contemporaneous mitogenomes from terminal Pleistocene burials in eastern Beringia.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Nov 26;112(45):13833-8. Epub 2015 Oct 26.

Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112;

Pleistocene residential sites with multiple contemporaneous human burials are extremely rare in the Americas. We report mitochondrial genomic variation in the first multiple mitochondrial genomes from a single prehistoric population: two infant burials (USR1 and USR2) from a common interment at the Upward Sun River Site in central Alaska dating to ∼11,500 cal B.P. Using a targeted capture method and next-generation sequencing, we determined that the USR1 infant possessed variants that define mitochondrial lineage C1b, whereas the USR2 genome falls at the root of lineage B2, allowing us to refine younger coalescence age estimates for these two clades. C1b and B2 are rare to absent in modern populations of northern North America. Documentation of these lineages at this location in the Late Pleistocene provides evidence for the extent of mitochondrial diversity in early Beringian populations, which supports the expectations of the Beringian Standstill Model.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1511903112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4653186PMC
November 2015

Early human use of anadromous salmon in North America at 11,500 y ago.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 Oct 21;112(40):12344-8. Epub 2015 Sep 21.

Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164; School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164.

Salmon represented a critical resource for prehistoric foragers along the North Pacific Rim, and continue to be economically and culturally important; however, the origins of salmon exploitation remain unresolved. Here we report 11,500-y-old salmon associated with a cooking hearth and human burials from the Upward Sun River Site, near the modern extreme edge of salmon habitat in central Alaska. This represents the earliest known human use of salmon in North America. Ancient DNA analyses establish the species as Oncorhynchus keta (chum salmon), and stable isotope analyses indicate anadromy, suggesting that salmon runs were established by at least the terminal Pleistocene. The early use of this resource has important implications for Paleoindian land use, economy, and expansions into northwest North America.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1509747112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4603495PMC
October 2015

New insights into Eastern Beringian mortuary behavior: a terminal Pleistocene double infant burial at Upward Sun River.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2014 Dec 10;111(48):17060-5. Epub 2014 Nov 10.

Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99775;

Here we report on the discovery of two infant burials dating to ∼11,500 calibrated years (cal) B.P. at the Upward Sun River site in central Alaska. The infants were interred in a pit feature with associated organic and lithic grave goods, including the earliest known North American hafted bifaces with decorated antler foreshafts. Skeletal and dental analyses indicate that Individual 1 died shortly after birth and Individual 2 was a late-term fetus, making these the youngest-aged late Pleistocene individuals known for the Americas and the only known prenate, offering, to our knowledge, the first opportunity to explore mortuary treatment of the youngest members of a terminal Pleistocene North American population. This burial was situated ∼40 cm directly below a cremated 3-y-old child previously discovered in association with a central hearth of a residential feature. The burial and cremation are contemporaneous, and differences in body orientation, treatment, and associated grave goods within a single feature and evidence for residential occupation between burial episodes indicate novel mortuary behaviors. The human remains, grave goods, and associated fauna provide rare direct data on organic technology, economy, seasonality of residential occupations, and infant/child mortality of terminal Pleistocene Beringians.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1413131111DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4260572PMC
December 2014

A terminal Pleistocene child cremation and residential structure from eastern Beringia.

Science 2011 Feb;331(6020):1058-62

Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA.

The dearth of human remains and residential sites has constrained inquiry into Beringian lifeways at the transition of the late Pleistocene-early Holocene. We report on human skeletal remains and a residential structure from central Alaska dated to ~11,500 calendar years ago. The remains are from a ~3-year-old child who was cremated in a pit within a semisubterranean house. The burial-cremation and house have exceptional integrity and preservation and exhibit similarities and differences to both Siberian Upper Paleolithic and North American Paleoindian features.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1201581DOI Listing
February 2011