Award Date

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Daniel C. Benyshek

Second Committee Member

Liam Frink

Third Committee Member

Karen Harry

Fourth Committee Member

Carolee Dodge-Francis

Number of Pages



This dissertation is composed of three papers: one published article, one article under review for publication, and one published commentary. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the dissertation as a whole – a work that investigates food aging and fermentation techniques in an indigenous Yup’ik Alaskan community, proposes an adaptive explanation for these strategies in the circumpolar north, and explores the potential importance of them cross-culturally and evolutionarily. Chapter 2 is a paper that describes the seal poke storage system – an indigenous food preservation and storage technique that Yup’ik Alaskans used to manage food security up until approximately one generation ago. Chapter 3 is a detailed study of ninamayuk – an indigenous Yup’ik food that involves processing and preservation techniques that are exemplary of the strategy adopted throughout the North American and Eurasian arctic and subarctic to ensure annual food security. Chapter 4 briefly summarizes an article published in Current Anthropology on indigenous aged and fermented foods in the Bering Strait region to which the published commentary (Chapter 5) is in response. Chapter 6 elaborates on the main points made in the commentary. Chapter 7 links the previous chapters to the findings in the papers of Chapter 2 and, particularly, Chapter 3 with its broader implications for understanding the evolution of the human diet. Chapter 8 discusses the implications of this research for the direction of future work in the field of Anthropology; specifically, the importance of continued ethnographic work and experimental archaeology with contemporary indigenous communities and the potential contribution of this for developing theories about prehistoric human dietary practices and modern-day diet-related health problems.


Alaska; Cooking; Fire; Human diet evolution; Seal oil; Yup'ik


Food Science | Social and Cultural Anthropology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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