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Early Agricultural Diet in Eastern North America: Evidence from Two Kentucky Rockshelters

  • Kristen J. Gremillion (a1)
Abstract

Systematic quantitative analysis of desiccated human paleofeces from two rockshelters in eastern Kentucky has yielded new evidence for early agricultural diet in eastern North America. Results indicate that native cultigens (including sumpweed, sunflower, and chenopod) were sometimes significant dietary constituents as early as ca. 1000 B.C., at least a millennium before agricultural economies became widespread across the region. However, variability in the quantity and frequency of cultigen remains suggests a dietary role that was somewhat limited compared to the practices of later Woodland period farmers. The predictions of foraging theory suggest that the utilization of cultigens would have been most advantageous in spring and summer (when many other foods were scarce) or in years of poor production by nut-bearing trees. The causal link between food storage and the development of food production in eastern Kentucky receives some empirical support and warrants further investigation.

El análisis cuantitativo y sistemático de paleofeces humanos disecadas provenientes de dos cavernas en la parte este de Kentucky haproducido nueva evidencia de una dieta agrícola temprana en el este de Norte América. Los resultados indican que cultivos nativos (incluyendo Iva annua, Helianthus annuus, y Chenopodium berlandieri) fueron parte significativa de la dieta desde 3000 a.C, por lo menos un milenio antes de que economías agrícolas adoptaran en la región. Sin embargo, la variabilidad en cantidad y frequencia de restos de cultivos sugiere un papel algo limitado en la dieta cuando se lo compara a las prácticas más recientes de agrícultores del período Woodland. Las predicciones de la teoría de forraje sugiere que el uso de cultivos habría sido más ventajoso durante la primavera y el verano (cuando muchos otros alimentos eran escasos) o en años en que la producción de nueces era pobre. La relatión causal entre el almacenamiento de comida y el desarrollo de productión de alimentos en el este de Kentucky tiene algún sustentamiento empírico y por lo tanto debería ser investigada más afondo.

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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
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