(1) Overview


The lithic assemblages presented here were collected during archaeological fieldwork in the upper Susitna River Basin on the southern flank of the central Alaska Range as part of the Alaska Range Uplands Project (Figure 1). There are three main goals to this ongoing research program: (1) establish the timing of initial settlement of the Alaska Range, (2) investigate changes in upland land-use strategies over time, and (3) establish the influence of upland activities on central Alaskan lithic assemblage variability. The lithic analysis data contained in this dataset were recovered from a variety of contexts, many of which were radiocarbon dated or stratigraphically dated using a tephrochronological sequence in the study area [1, 2].

Map of the upper Susitna study area showing archaeological sites with lithic assemblages in dataset: 1, HEA-456; 2, HEA-500; 3, HEA-499; 4, HEA-506; 5, HEA-459; 6, HEA-460; 7, HEA-505; 8, HEA-234; 9, HEA-511; 10, HEA-235; 11, HEA-510; 12, HEA-454; 13, HEA-508; 14, HEA-509; 15, HEA-507; 16, HEA-457; 17, HEA-455; 18, HEA-458; 19, HEA-502
Figure 1 

Map of the upper Susitna study area showing archaeological sites with lithic assemblages in dataset: 1, HEA-456; 2, HEA-500; 3, HEA-499; 4, HEA-506; 5, HEA-459; 6, HEA-460; 7, HEA-505; 8, HEA-234; 9, HEA-511; 10, HEA-235; 11, HEA-510; 12, HEA-454; 13, HEA-508; 14, HEA-509; 15, HEA-507; 16, HEA-457; 17, HEA-455; 18, HEA-458; 19, HEA-502.

Spatial coverage

Description: Upper Susitna River Basin, Alaska

Northern boundary: 63.228

Southern boundary: 63.042

Eastern boundary: –147.133

Western boundary: –147.901

Temporal coverage

The dataset covers the period of 12,510 to 11,990 cal BP (representing the oldest calibrated radiocarbon date range) to <1,825 cal BP (representing the lower stratigraphic age limit of the youngest assemblages).

(2) Methods


A total of 8,762 lithic debitage and tools from nineteen archaeological sites were analyzed using metric and non-metric attribute analysis. Digital calipers, a digital goniometer, and a digital scale were used to collect metric data, and visual inspection was used to collect non-metric data. Lithic raw material categories were established based on rock type, color, and texture. Lithic raw material categories were compared to lithic raw material sources in the study area to determine whether they were available in the study area [3]. Debitage attributes scored in this study include weight, size class, condition, amount and type of cortex, platform preparation, and presence/absence of thermal alteration. Debitage was also classified using a hierarchical typology, separating pieces at two levels, class and type. Debitage typology characteristics follow [4, 5] and are described in detail in [1].

Data collected on lithic cores includes number of platforms, platform-surface preparation, number of core fronts, maximum linear dimension, weight, and size value [1]. Formal cores were characterized according to morphological features [4]. Tools were classified as unifacial or bifacial, and non-metric and metric attributes were recorded for each including weight, tool condition, fracture type, edge angle, tool-blank type and presence/absence of hafting characteristics. Unifacial tools (Figure 2) were scored for invasiveness of retouch (measured to the 0.01 mm at the most invasive depth, and at 25%, 50%, and 75% of tool face when these portions of the tool face were available), and retouched edge angle. Unifacial tool retouch intensity was scored as the number of retouched edges out of 10 units representing the entire circumference of the tool, excluding missing tool edges following [6, 7].

Representative sample of unifacial tools included in this dataset
Figure 2 

Representative sample of unifacial tools included in this dataset: a–e, HEA–455 C3; f–l, HEA-455 C2; m–p, HEA-499 C1.

Tools were scored typologically into class and type, using a standard typology developed for sites in central Alaska [8]. Bifacial tools (Figure 3) were further categorized into hafted and unhafted categories (based on presence absence of edge grinding and hafting characteristics such as flake arris wear, indentation from grinding/wear, notching, and blade indentation from sharpening in the haft), and scored for length, width, thickness (mm), weight (0.1 g), fragment type, transverse and longitudinal cross section, presence or absence of cortex, edge shape, presence/absence and length of marginal grinding, flaking pattern, and hafted biface basal shape and basal features following [9, 10]. Basic biface reduction categories were used to characterize reduction sequence. Early stage bifaces were initially flaked along edges, with few flake scars across the face; middle stage bifaces have most cortex removed and are flaked across the face to the center of the tool; late stage bifaces have a flat cross section, large, flat flake scars across the faces; finished bifaces have all of the characteristics of late stage bifaces, along with refined edge trimming (typically used for bifacial tool fragments that are missing the proximal end and therefore cannot be definitively assigned to hafted biface category).

Representative sample of bifacial tools included in this dataset
Figure 3 

Representative sample of bifacial tools included in this dataset: a–c, HEA–235 surface; d, HEA-234 surface; e, HEA-234 C3; f–h, HEA-455 C3; i–k, HEA-499 C1; l–m, HEA-460 C1; n–o, HEA-455 C2.

Sampling strategy

The lithic assemblages in the dataset represent 100% of excavated materials from the representative sites.

Quality Control

Artifact provenience information was checked against field notes during the accessioning process to ensure quality control over provenience. The dataset has been reviewed for any errors through Microsoft Excel error check and visually by the analyst.


Four of the lithic assemblages in this dataset represent surface artifact scatters and are therefore undated. This may affect their utility for future research focused on temporal periods.

(3) Dataset description

Object name

“Prehistoric Landscape Use in the Central Alaska Range” (tDAR id: 468022) doi:10.48512/XCV8468022. There are two files in the tDAR project record “Prehistoric landscape use in the central Alaska Range”. The first file is “Lithic analysis dataset from the upper Susitna River basin” (tDAR id: 468112) doi:10.48512/XCV8468112. This file is a Microsoft Excel file with primary lithic analysis data. The second file is “Prehistoric landscape use in the central Alaska Range: coding sheet for lithic analysis dataset from the upper Susitna River basin” (tDAR id: 468113) doi:10.48512/XCV8468113. This file is a PDF file with coding sheet information to accompany the lithic assemblage dataset.

Data type

Primary data

Format names and versions

Excel, PDF

Creation dates

Start date 14/08/2010; end date 14/05/2016.

Dataset Creators

John C. Blong, Department of Anthropology, Washington State University.




Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Repository location

Prehistoric landscape use in the central Alaska Range: lithic analysis dataset from the upper Susitna River basin. John Blong. 2016 (tDAR id: 468112); doi:10.48512/XCV8468112.


Publication date


(4) Reuse potential

Several studies focused on the subarctic and arctic region of North America have utilized lithic assemblage data to characterize broad demographic and land-use patterns over time [11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16]. This dataset is ideal for use in meta-analysis studies such as these. Table 1 >provides geographical and chronological information on the archaeological sites contained in this dataset to facilitate its use in meta-analysis studies. Photographs of a selection of lithics from many of these sites are available open access in [1] This dataset can also be used for subarctic and arctic lithic technological organization studies using lithic assemblage attributes to reconstruct land-use strategies. There is reuse potential for methodological studies; for example, this dataset provides a robust set of measures of tool reduction that can be compared to assess reliability of tool and core reduction indices. Finally, this dataset has reuse potential in educational settings, for example as a tutorial for students in undergraduate and graduate archaeology, lithic technology, and statistics classes.

Table 1

Geographical and chronological information for archaeological sites in the dataset [1, 2].


HEA-234 809 Shrub tundra C3: <1,825

HEA-235 806 Shrub tundra C3: <1,825

HEA-454 790 Shrub tundra C3: <1,825
C2: 7,627–7,788
C1: 10,770–11,170

HEA-455 860 Shrub tundra C3: 2,329–2,682
C2: 3,984–5,711
C1: 10,300–10,690

HEA-456 1137 Alpine tundra Unknown

HEA-457 780 Shrub tundra Unknown

HEA-458 825 Shrub tundra C1: >1,825

HEA-459 1153 Alpine tundra Unknown

HEA-460 1340 Alpine tundra C1: <1,825

HEA-499 772 Shrub tundra C1: 4,432–4,867

HEA-500 790 Shrub tundra C1: <1,825

HEA-502 813 Shrub tundra C1: <1,825

HEA-505 1070 Alpine tundra Unknown

HEA-506 778 Shrub tundra C1: 5,050–5,299

HEA-507 769 Shrub tundra C1: <1,825

HEA-508 788 Shrub tundra C3: <1,825
C2: 3,360–7,970

HEA-509 788 Shrub tundra C1: <1,825

HEA-510 788 Shrub tundra C1: <1,825

HEA-511 795 Shrub tundra C1: <1,825