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Declining Foraging Efficiency in the Middle Tennessee River Valley Prior to Initial Domestication

  • Elic M. Weitzel (a1)

Abstract

Recently, researchers investigating the origins of domestication have debated the significance of resource intensification in the shift from foraging to food production. In eastern North America, one of several independent centers of domestication, this question remains open. To determine whether initial domestication may have been preceded by intensification in eastern North America at approximately 5000 cal BP, I evaluated the archaeofaunal assemblages from six sites in the middle Tennessee River valley. Analyses of these data suggest that overall foraging efficiency gradually declined prior to initial domestication, but patch-specific declines in foraging efficiency occurred in wetland habitats and not terrestrial ones. Climatic warming and drying during the Middle Holocene, growing human populations, and oak-hickory forest expansion were the likely drivers of these changes in foraging efficiency. These results support the hypothesis that initial domestication in eastern North America was an outcome of intensification driven by environmental change and human population increases. Finally, while the debate concerning the relationship of intensification to domestication has been framed in terms of a conflict between niche construction theory and optimal foraging theory, these perspectives are compatible and should be integrated to understand domestication more fully.

Este artículo presenta los resultados de experimentos controlados en los que puntas de proyectil de piedra con resistencia al impacto variable por un factor de casi tres fueron disparadas contra materiales cada vez más inelásticos y, por lo tanto, con mayor probabilidad de romper las puntas. En casos donde fuera posible, las puntas rotas se reformatizaron y se volvieron a utilizar en las mismas condiciones. Nuestros resultados muestran que los daños a los materiales de baja resistencia al impacto, como la obsidiana, fueron generalmente catastróficos y en consecuencia, estas puntas rara vez se pudieron volver a trabajar. El hecho de que se usaran comúnmente piedras de baja resistencia para hacer pequeñas puntas de flecha sugiere que los productores no pensaban en reacondicionarlas. Además, en aquellos casos en que las puntas rotas se pudieron reacondicionar, su rendimiento disminuyó. En consecuencia, la reformatización de puntas rotas también dio lugar a formas que son poco comunes en muchos conjuntos de puntas de flecha. Nuestros resultados sugieren que los atributos de diseño originales de las puntas de flecha pueden haberse visto menos afectados por el retoque y, en consecuencia, pueden sugerir con mayor precisión asociaciones temporales y de comportamiento.

Copyright

Corresponding author

(elic.weitzel@uconn.edu, corresponding author)

References

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