Before Farming

White-tailed deer harvest pressure & within-bone nutrient exploitation during the mid- to late Holocene in southeast Texas

Before Farming (2008), 2008, (2), 1–23.

Abstract

Human population size and density increased in many areas of eastern North America after the mid-Holocene. As predators, human foragers relied heavily on ungulate prey for food in many areas of the world during prehistory. In southeast Texas, changes in foraging adaptations relate to broader subsistence and population trends. Analysis of a large, well-preserved archaeological faunal assemblage that spans much of the second half of the Holocene from the Eagle's Ridge site (41CH252) indicates that harvest pressure and carcass exploitation of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) intensified through time following predictions framed under two theoretical models. The first model summarises effects of changes in harvest pressure and/or habitat productivity on prey population age structure and body size. Under harvest pressure age structures should become juvenile dominated expressing relatively steep survivorship, and ontogenetic growth rate of prey should increase. Habitat productivity affects ontogenetic growth rate but not proportional age structure in a prey population. The second model uses proxy measures of fragmentation to study exploitation of within-bone nutrients from white-tailed deer bones. Extent of fragmentation increases as marrow exploitation increases and intensity of fragmentation increases as grease exploitation intensifies. At Eagle's Ridge multiple lines of evidence related to the two models indicate that as human population density increased through time white-tailed deer were harvested at a higher rate.

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Wolverton, Steve

Nagaoka, Lisa

Densmore, Julie

Fullerton, Ben