2009 Faunal Changes in Farming Communities from Basketmaker II to Pueblo III (A.D. 1-1300) in the San Juan Basin of the American Southwest. Journal of Archaeological Science 36: 1832-1841.
This article examines faunal assemblages from the San Juan Basin in the American Southwest. The authors compiled data collected from the Basketmaker II to Pueblo III period in an attempt to understand changes in animal use over time. Artiodactyls (deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, elk, and bison), lagomorphs (cottontails and jackrabbits), and turkeys were the most common meat sources during this time frame, so this study was limited to these groups. The authors found that over time, artiodactyl use decreased in relation to lagomorph use. Conversely, turkeys increased over time in relation to lagomorphs. Finally, they found that cottontail use increased over time when compared to jackrabbits.
The authors propose a number of explanations for the patterns seen in these faunal assemblages. According to them, there are three major factors that affect game availability: the natural environment, human modifications to the environment, and the direct human exploitation of plant and animal resources. Artiodactyls would have been the preferred game due to their size; this, however, led to the overexploitation of these animals which resulted in population declines. Badenhorst and Driver suggest that this decline in artiodactyl availability cause the people to turn to turkey as a reliable meat source. They propose multiple reasons for the increase in cottontail use over time. First, agriculture would have created a more favorable environment for cottontails over jackrabbits, so the increase in cottontails is a reflection of local population changes. In addition, people may have turned to cottontails because of their high rate of replenishment; artiodactyls were becoming scarce, so they began hunting a meat source that reproduces quickly and won't suffer a decline in population. Finally, they suggest that the high occurrence of cottontails could reflect garden hunting; the cottontails were attracted to the gardens for food, and the people killed them either because they were easily accessible or because they would destroy the crops. Whatever the reasons, it is clear that artiodactyl use decreased while cottontail and turkey use increased between the Basketmaker II and Pueblo III periods.