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Testing for Mississippian Period Turkey Management in the Archaeological Record of the Southeastern United States

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 August 2021

Erin Kennedy Thornton*
Washington State University, Department of Anthropology, College Hall 150, Pullman, WA 99164-4910, USA
Tanya Peres
Florida State University, Department of Anthropology, 2035 E. Paul Dirac Drive, Johnson Building, Suite 206, Tallahassee, FL 32310, USA
Kelly Ledford Chase
Florida State University, Department of Anthropology, 2035 E. Paul Dirac Drive, Johnson Building, Suite 206, Tallahassee, FL 32310, USA
Brian M. Kemp
University of Oklahoma, Department of Anthropology, 455 West Lindsey, Dale Hall Tower Room 521, Norman, OK 73069, USA University of Oklahoma, Laboratories of Molecular Anthropology and Microbiome Research, 101 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072, USA
Ryan Frome
University of Oklahoma, Laboratories of Molecular Anthropology and Microbiome Research, 101 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, OK 73072, USA
Aurelie Manin
University of York, Department of Archaeology, BioArCh, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom University of Oxford, School of Archaeology, 1 South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3TG, United Kingdom (current address)
Lauren Basnett
University of York, Department of Archaeology, BioArCh, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom
Krista McGrath
University of York, Department of Archaeology, BioArCh, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Department of Prehistory, Edifici B Facultat de Filosofia i Lletres, Carrer de la Fortuna, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain (current address)
Camilla Speller
University of York, Department of Archaeology, BioArCh, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology, 6303 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1, Canada
Elizabeth J. Reitz
University of Georgia, Georgia Museum of Natural History, 101 Cedar Street, Athens, GA 32602, USA
(, corresponding author)


People living in Mesoamerica and what is now the eastern and southwestern United States used turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) as sources of meat, eggs, bones, and feathers. Turkey husbandry and domestication are confirmed in two of these regions (Mesoamerica and the American Southwest), but human-turkey interactions in Eastern North American (eastern United States and Canada) are not fully explored. We apply stable isotope (δ13C, δ15N) and ancient mitochondrial DNA analyses to archaeofaunal samples from seven sites in the southeastern United States to test whether turkeys were managed or captively reared. These combined data do not support prolonged or intensive captive rearing of turkeys, and evidence for less intensive management is ambiguous. More research is warranted to determine whether people managed turkeys in these areas, and whether this is generalizable. Determining whether turkeys were managed or reared in the southeastern United States helps define cultural and environmental factors related to turkey management or husbandry throughout North America. This inquiry contributes to discussion of the roles of intensified human-animal interactions in animal domestication.

Las personas que vivían en Mesoamérica y lo que ahora es el este y suroeste de los Estados Unidos usaban pavos (Meleagris gallopavo) como fuente de carne, huevos, huesos y plumas. La cría y la domesticación de pavos están confirmadas en dos de estas regiones (Mesoamérica y el suroeste de los Estados Unidos), pero las interacciones entre humanos y pavos en el parte este de Norteamérica (el este de los Estados Unidos y Canadá) no se exploran completamente. Aplicamos análisis de isótopos estables (δ13C, δ15N) y de ADN mitocondrial antiguo a muestras de arqueofauna de siete sitios en el sureste de los Estados Unidos para determinar si los pavos fueron manejados o criados en cautiverio. Estos datos combinados no apoyan la cría en cautividad prolongada o intensiva de pavos, y la evidencia de un manejo menos intensivo es ambigua. Se necesita más investigación para determinar si la gente manejó pavos en estas áreas y si esto es generalizable. Determinar si los pavos fueron manejados o criados en el sureste de los Estados Unidos ayuda a definir los factores culturales y ambientales relacionados con el manejo o la cría de pavos en toda Norteamérica. Esta investigación contribuye a la discusión de los roles de las interacciones intensificadas entre humanos y animales en la domesticación animal.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for American Archaeology

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