Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version



Greiman, Nora C. 2016. A Pilot Study for Examining Population Movement During the Peri-Medieval Climatic Anomaly in the Nebraska Sand Hills. Unpublished Masters Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment Of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Anthropology, Under the Supervision of Professors LuAnn Wandsnider and Matt Douglass. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Nora Carlson Greiman


The Sand Hills of Nebraska comprise a dynamic environment of sand dunes that has changed much over the millennia since their formation. Periods of dune reactivation have occurred throughout history, including one such period at approximately A.D. 900-1300 associated with the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA). Much is known about the geologic activity during this period but little is known about how human populations responded to changing environments. I examine the chronology of three sites occupied during the peri-MCA and the change or stasis in population movements via chemical characterization of ceramic artifacts. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating was performed on sediment samples and ceramic sherds from each site in addition to instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) on sherds from each site. Optical ages of sediment and ceramic samples aid in refining site chronologies, offer new hypotheses about site occupations, and add to the larger chronological dataset for the Sand Hills. INAA results indicate that ceramic raw material exploitation, and therefore population movement patterns, may not have changed significantly early on during the MCA. However, data from the proto-historic Humphrey site indicate a change in terms of the composition of sherds towards the end of or after the reactivation and stabilization related to the MCA, which may represent populations expanding out of the southwestern U.S. and into the Sand Hills, though whether this migration or diffusion of people and ideas and material culture is directly attributable to climate change or whether it is a byproduct of other processes is unclear at this time.

Advisor: LuAnn Wandsnider and Matt Douglass