Thursday, February 23, 2012

Faunal Remains: The Woodlands

Holt, Julie Zimmermann.
2005 Animal Remains from the Carter Creek Site: Late Woodland Adaptive Strategies in the Upland Frontier of West Central Illinois. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 30: 37-65.  

     This article examines faunal remains from the Carter Creek Site, a Late Woodland Weaver phase (ca. A.D. 250- A.D. 500) site in west central Illinois. The site is located in the forest, but it is also near edge of the prairie; this location would have given the residents easy access to forest, aquatic, and prairie resources. It is a site of great interest because it represents a movement out of river valleys into uplands. Faunal remains include snails, mussels, white-tailed deer, elk, gray and fox squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, skunks, gray foxes, beavers, raccoons, turkeys, prairie chickens, crows, turtles, frogs, and fish. Hand-collected sampling indicates that deer constituted a majority of the diet, while flotation sampling suggests that diet was dominated by fish. Both sampling methods have inherent biases, so the author cannot determine whether fish or deer were more important. However, it is clear that they were both major components of the diet.
     The author compares her findings from this site with other Late Woodland sites in the Midwest in order to test two hypotheses about Late Woodland faunal exploitation. The first prediction, proposed by Green, states that early Late Woodland groups who moved from riverine areas into uplands would continue to focus on riverine resources. Styles, on the other hand, theorizes that the geography around the settlement would dictate which fauna were utilized. Due to the biases in sampling, Holt could not determine if fish or deer were more prominent in the diet. However, it is clear that fish were an important part of subsistence, which supports Green's theory that early groups who moved into uplands from riverine locations would continue to exploit the fauna that they were familiar with; in short, they would continue to focus on fish because their parents focused on fish. But, data from the Cater Creek Site also supports Style's theory. Although the residents of Carter Creek did consume fish, most of the fish was from local creeks rather than major rivers. In addition, they consumed animals like prairie chicken, which are from the nearby prairie environment and which would not have been available in the riverine habitat that their ancestors inhabited. The author concluded that both theories have truth to them; tradition influenced this group to continue exploiting fish, but the fish and other resources that they exploited were a product of their environment.


Purdue, James R., Bonnie W. Styles, and Mary Carol Masulis
1989 Faunal Remains and White-Tailed Deer Exploitation from a Late Woodland Upland Encampment: The Boschert Site (23SC609), St. Charles County, Missouri. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 14:146-163. 

     In the Late Woodland period, people living near rivers heavily exploited the resources associated with a riverine habitat. These resources included aquatic fauna and rich soil for plant cultivation. In addition, special camps were established throughout the surrounding area to provide specific food items, such as meat and nuts. The Boschert Site (A.D. 730- A.D. 840) is one such specialty encampment in the uplands of the Mississippi River floodplains. This site contains well preserved faunal remains, which is rare in upland sites. White-tailed deer account for a majority of the faunal remains, but the remains also include ducks, geese, swans, box turtles, fish, and a small number of gastropods and mussels. The deer bones that were recovered represent portions of the deer with little meat, suggesting that the more desirable parts were brought back to a main settlement. The authors conclude that this site may have been used for various activities, but its primary purpose was to serve as a hunting and processing center for deer.
     This site differs from the other riverine Late Woodland sites of this region in that is has a high proportion of deer remains. Unlike the Boschert Site, the majority of riverine sites focus more on fish and other aquatic resources. One explanation for the existence of specialty camps is that they may have helped to avoid overexploitation of resources as settlements became more permanent. Warren (1982) examined Late Woodland sites in the Salt River drainage basin, and observed a higher frequency of specialty encampments than seen in earlier periods. This increase in procurement sites coincides with the appearance of more permanent settlements, suggesting that they were an important aspect of year-round habitation. Research on the importance of Late Woodland specialty camps in subsistence is limited, but procurement in the uplands likely complemented subsistence in permanent riverine settlements. The findings from the Boschert Site suggest that upland procurement sites were an important part of Late Woodland subsistence. 

Reference Cited:
Warren, Robert E.
1982 Prehistoric Settlement Patterns. In The Cannon Reservoir Human Ecology Project, edited by Michael J. O'Brien, Robert E. Warren, and Dennis E. Lewarch, pp. 337-368. Academic Press, New York.

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