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This study presents the results of ancient DNA analyses of eight snakehead (Channa sp.) bones from the Market Street Chinatown, a nineteenth-century Chinese diaspora archaeological site in San Jose, California. The sequences of a short stretch of the mitochondrial DNA identify the Market Street Chinatown snakeheads as Giant Snakehead (Channa micropeltes), a species native to Southeast Asia. These results provide the first archaeological evidence of the nineteenth-century trade of Asian freshwater fishes to North America, and they reveal that preserved fish products from throughout the Pacific World were readily distributed across the Chinese diaspora. We place our findings within the broader context of nineteenth-century Chinese migration to show how the common Chinese small shareholding business model and access to trade connections facilitated by Chinese-operated import/export firms known as jinshanzhuang allowed Chinese fishers to be successful across the Pacific World. Finally, we suggest avenues for future study by comparing Chinese migration-based, flexible fishing strategies using generalist methods with the highly specialized collection and trade of species like Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) in the North Atlantic.
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.
The turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) was independently domesticated in Mesoamerica and the Southwest, the latter as the only case of Native American animal domestication north of Mexico. In the upland (non-desert) portion of the American Southwest, distinctive closely related mtDNA lineages belonging to haplogroup H1 (thought to indicate domestication) occur from ca. 1 A.D. (Basketmaker II period) through early historic times. At many sites, low frequencies of lineages belonging to haplogroup H2 also occur, apparently derived from the local Merriam’s subspecies. We report genetic, stable isotope, and coprolite data from turkey remains recovered at three early sites in SE Utah and SW Colorado dating to the Basketmaker II, III, and early Pueblo II periods. Evidence from these and other early sites indicates that both the H1 and H2 turkeys had a predominantly maize-based diet similar to that of humans; prior to late Pueblo II times, the birds were kept primarily to provide feathers for blankets and ritual uses; and ritualized burials indicate turkeys’ symbolic value. We argue that viewing individuals from the H1 and H2 haplogroups as “domestic” versus “wild” is an oversimplification.
Maize agriculture was practiced in the U.S. Southwest slightly before 2000 B.C., but had a negligible impact on population growth rates until the development or introduction of more productive landraces; the ability to successfully cultivate maize under a greater variety of conditions, with dry farming especially important; the addition of beans, squash, and eventually turkey to the diet; increased sedentism; and what we infer to be the remapping of exchange networks and the development of efficient exchange strategies in first-millenium-A.D. villages. Our estimates of birthrates and growth rates are derived from the proportions of immature individuals among human remains. These proportions are somewhat affected by warfare in our region, and perhaps also by climate. Nevertheless, there is a strong identifiable Neolithic Demographic Transition signal in the U.S. Southwest in about the mid-first-millennium A.D. in most subregions, visible a few hundred years after the introduction of well-fired ceramic containers, and more or less contemporaneous with the first appearance of villages. Independent genetic data derived from the mitochondrial genomes of present-day indigenous populations of the Southwest are also consistent with the hypothesis that a major demographic expansion occurred 1,500-2000 years ago in the Southwest.