Hunter Gatherer Research

The incredible edible hare

A Great Basin history

Hunter Gatherer Research (2018), 4, (4), 437–465.

Abstract

Hares (Lepus spp) have been common residents of Great Basin valley bottoms and piedmonts throughout the late Pleistocene and Holocene. Although their skeletal remains often dominate regional zooarchaeological collections and ethnographic records across the American West detail the importance of Lepus to native peoples, many studies of human subsistence productivity consider these mammals to be a low-ranked resource. We critique some methodological constructs and interpretations of the prey choice model and compare the abundances of hares and artiodactyls in regional archaeological sites to maintain that hares represented a multidimensional resource that often comprised the core of the diet. Beyond nutritional returns, they provided people with hunting implements and life-saving warmth, and cooperative drives helped establish familial and sociopolitical bonds. Ethnographic documentation and the abundance of hare remains in regional sites indicate they were likely always an integral part of lifeways rather than an inefficient resource targeted only when purportedly high-ranked prey resources were unavailable.

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