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Archaeological researchers and compliance review officers need to know whether or not a research plan will yield sufficient information to meet research objectives. Despite the need, a key question is often not addressed in proposals or reports: how many flotation samples are sufficient to adequately characterize the food procurement practices at an archaeological site? This article reviews the relationship between ubiquity and statistical probability. By considering the relationship between theoretical ubiquity, measured ubiquity, population ubiquity, and statistical probability, archaeological researchers and compliance officers may assess how many samples must be analyzed in order to adequately characterize the paleoethnobotanical assemblage from a site. These considerations generally apply to any other archaeological data in which presence-absence measures are commonly used and are especially relevant to diet-breadth models in the interest arena of behavioral ecology.
Were Early Agricultural period (2100 B.C.–A.D. 50) maize cultivators in
Southern Arizona sedentary farmers or seasonally mobile forager-farmers?
Ethnographic analogs and ethnographically derived middle range theory
support both claims. One argument for sedentism has been the abundance of
large subterranean storage pits. These are often presumed to have been used
for long-term food storage. This study of wetlands-indicator spores
recovered from those pits indicates that the pits were often saturated and
could not have been used for long-term food storage; these findings support
the general contention that Early Agricultural period maize cultivators were
seasonally mobile and tried to fit early agriculture into a subsistence
regime focused on wild foods.
Metric analyses of recently excavated maize (Zea mays, L.) cupules and cob fragments from Early Agricultural period (2000 B. C.-A.D. 50) sites in southern Arizona indicate that early maize cultivars produced small cobs with small cupules. Although it is risky to generalize about the yield potential of a plant that may have no compelling modern analogues, this work provides further support for the claim that ancient Tucson Basin maize plants provided relatively low yields as compared with more recent varieties.
Analyses of the assemblages from the floors of Upland Mogollon pithouses show that variation in artifact frequencies may be attributed to differences in the intensity of abandonment and post-abandonment formation processes, such as caching, scavenging and trash dumping. The proportion of pithouses that contain caches or de facto assemblages is provocatively constant across sites—roughly 18 percent. This observation may be useful for refining estimates of the populations of sites or regions, for recognizing the size of social groups, or for identifying the abandonment sequences of pithouse villages. Prior studies that attribute variation in the frequencies of different classes of artifacts to functional differences in the uses of pithouses are rejected on the grounds of methodological inadequacy.
Analyses of the size, shape, and wear on western Mogollon manos and metates reveal that the dietary importance of maize remained low and stable from the Early Pithouse period (A.D. 200–550) through the Georgetown phase (A.D. 550–700). The consumption of maize increased during the San Francisco phase (A.D. 700–825/850) and continued to increase through the Three Circle phase (A.D. 825/850–1000). Changes in the ubiquity of charred pieces of maize (Zea mays) from paleoethnobotanical samples also indicate an increase in maize consumption from the Early Pithouse period through the Three Circle phase. The onset of increased maize consumption roughly coincided with the introduction of an improved variety of eight-row maize, around A.D. 650–700 (Upham et al. 1987). The analyses presented in this study do not agree with recent suggestions (Gilman 1987; Mauldin 1991) that maize consumption in the western Mogollon region remained stable and low until the Classic Mimbres phase (A.D. 1000–1150).
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