PULLMAN, Wash. –A Washington State University archaeologist internationally known for his research on the movement of prehistoric peoples from Asia into North America will visit Siberia again this summer.
Robert E. Ackerman will travel with two of his doctoral students to the Chita District in Siberia, east of Lake Baikal. He will make arrangements for the students to do research projects focusing on the late Upper Paleolithic or Stone Age prehistory of the region. The students are Ian Buvit and Karisa Terry.
A member of the WSU anthropology faculty since 1961, Ackerman has traveled to Russia, Siberia, Japan, Korea and China to attend scientific conferences and to study archaeological collections from Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic sites. His specific research interests include the earliest evidence for the movement of hunter-gatherers into coastal and interior regions of northeast Asia and Alaska, late Pleistocene and early Holocene cultural adaptation, and further definition of the cultural phases of Arctic and subarctic prehistory.
He has led archaeological digs at many sites in Alaska including Spein Mountain and Lime Hills, both exhibiting dates of human occupation more than 10,000 years ago. He has worked at frozen sites including one on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Strait where he did research for his doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania. This site was some 2,000 years old, and yielded organic material including bone, wood, ivory, fur, animal hair and cordage.
In 1993, in a cave in Alaska’s Lime Hills, Ackerman identified the first evidence of the use of bow and arrows in North America. The distinctive arrowheads, dated to about 9,500 years ago, are made of four-and-a-half-inch cylinders of bones with side slots fitted with small, sharp stone tools called microblades. Microblade technology, found from Mongolia and Siberia to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, is often cited as evidence of the migrations of early peoples from Asia to North America.
Ackerman is also known for his 1985 discovery with Kenneth Reid of bones of cod, herring and other ocean fish in a Heceta Island midden or refuse mound dated to 8,200 years ago. This was the first faunal evidence that people were fishing from boats off the coast at this early period, and helped support the idea that some of the earliest Americans brought a well-developed maritime culture with them from Asia. The midden is near Chuck Lake on Heceta Island, located off the southeastern Alaska coast near Ketchikan.
The WSU archaeologist has published widely in major journals and has three chapters in the influential 1996 book, “American Beginnings: Prehistory and Paleoecology of Beringia.” He is also credited as one of five key advisers to that volume. Beringia is the term given the land bridge that joined Siberia and Alaska during the Ice Age.
In 1999, he received the Alaska Anthropological Association Career Achievement Award for his research that has taken him to many areas of Alaska, as well as to Siberia, the Russian Far East, Korea and China.