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On Mammalian Taphonomy, Taxonomic Diversity, and Measuring Subsistence Data in Zooarchaeology

  • Dave N. Schmitt (a1) and Karen D. Lupo (a2)

Abstract

This paper examines the application of mammalian taxonomic diversity measures in the analysis of human subsistence. Employing qualitative and quantitative taphonomic analyses on archaeofaunas recovered from a sheltered Fremont site in Utah, numerous small- and medium-sized animal bones (especially Leporidae) are identified as nonhuman accumulations. Measures of taxonomic diversity for the shelter’s entire assemblage suggest that the inhabitants practiced a generalized, broad-spectrum subsistence strategy. Omitting the nonhuman accumulations and calculating similar measures on bones interpreted as human refuse produce a different portrait of subsistence practices. Using this investigation as a case study, mammalian faunal assemblages from six additional Fremont assemblages are examined to further demonstrate that subsistence inferences based on diversity measures should be approached with caution. We demonstrate that measures of taxonomic diversity are valuable tools but should be used in concert with analyses of taphonomic agents. Furthermore, rather than employing only those bones identified to species, we emphasize that specimens identified to taxonomic genera may offer adequate resolution in examining prehistoric diet breadth.

Resumen

Este ensayo examinará la aplicación de las medidas de la taxonómica mamífera en el análisis de la subsistencia humana. Empleará los análisis tafonómicos cualitativos y cuantitativos de las arquaofaunas recuperadas en Utah. El lugar en donde se encontraron estas arquaofaunas es uno de los Fremont yfue en un sitio que estaba simpre protegido de al intemperie. Se identifican como acumulaciones no humanos los numerosos huesos de animates (especialmente los Leporinos), que son huesos pequeños y de tamano mediano. Las medidas de diversidad taxonomíca para el poblado en su totalidad que vivia en el sitio sugieren que los habitantes utilizaban una estrategia generalizada y de un espectro amplio para la subsistencia. Al omitir las acumulaciones no humanos, y al calcular medidas similares sobre los huesos que están interpretados como desperdicios humanos, nos produce una representación bastante diferente de las costumbres para lo de la subsistencia. Al utilizar estas examinaciones como un caso de investigación, se estudian la presencia mamífera y las abundancias de seis poblados adicionales de los Fremont. De esta forma se muestra la forma en que las inferencias de subsistencia, basadas en las medidas de diversidad, se debe dirigirse con cautela. Se muestra que las medidas de la diversidad taxonómica son herramientas valiosas, pero no que se deben utilizar a menos que se midan e identifiquen los factores tafonómicos. Además, en lugar de sólo emplear los huesos identificados a ciertas especies, nostros ponemos énfasis en que los especímenes identificados a sus géneros taxonómicos ofrescan una solución adecuada para examinar la extensión de la dieta prehistórica.

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On Mammalian Taphonomy, Taxonomic Diversity, and Measuring Subsistence Data in Zooarchaeology

  • Dave N. Schmitt (a1) and Karen D. Lupo (a2)

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