Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Cultural Heritage Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Douglas H. MacDonald

Commitee Members

Anna M. Prentiss, Marc Hendrix


caldera breathing, Early Archaic, fauna, geology, hunter-gatherers, Late Archaic, Late Prehistoric, Middle Archaic, Paleoindian, paleo-shorelines, riparian, Yellowstone Lake, vocanism, archaeology, behavioral ecology


University of Montana


The Yellowstone Lake Basin has been an important region for hunter-gatherers since the close of the Late Pleistocene that has provided an abundance and well diverse suite of subsistence resources ( i.e prey animals and edible plants). Due the diversity found within this ecosystem, the primary objective of this thesis is to demonstrate that through the tenants of human behavioral ecology, it can be argued that the subsistence and settlement strategies of mobile foragers were heavily influenced by the abundance and availability of subsistence resources. This is based on the premise that resource patches comprising of riparian and grassland habitats obtain high productions of subsistence resources which would have encouraged mobile foragers to occupy these areas. Furthermore, these tenants can be applied on a macro-evolutionary scale to demonstrate how shifts in climate over the past 12,000 years affected the subsistence and settlement strategies of hunter-gatherers. Like all ecosystems, the Yellowstone Lake Basin is constantly undergoing ecological transformations in response to disturbances in the climate. Shifts in climate may have had significant impacts on the distribution and compositions of vegetative zones that in turn affected the quality and production of resource patches. It is suspected that when poor patch conditions existed, mobile foragers responded by dispersing to new resource patches that were more productive. Conversely, when patch conditions became favorable, mobile foragers occupied these areas more frequently and over longer periods of time. The final objective of this thesis was to determine if the spatial distribution of prehistoric sites could be associated to paleo-shorelines that reflected past lake levels. This objective was carried out by applying the principle tenants used in the geosciences. Using Nicolaus Steno’s principle of superposition, it will be demonstrated that archaeological sites with intact and undisturbed contexts will only be associated with paleo-shoreline features that were exposed prior to any drops in lake levels. This is based on the geologic principle that younger layers of strata will overlie older deposits, which can be applied here by arguing that older archaeological deposits should be associated with lake levels reflecting similar ages while younger deposits should correspond to lake levels reflecting younger ages.



© Copyright 2012 Jordan C. McIntyre