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Freshwater Mussels as a Prehistoric Food Resource


The explication of prehistoric subsistence economies has been of increasing interest to archaeologists. This emphasis is reflected, in part, by the considerable attention afforded faunal analyses in the recent archaeological literature. However, little effort has been made toward developing methods that permit meaningful comparisons of food resources at the interspecies level. Data pertinent to the calculation of both quantitative and qualitative food potential of many of the vertebrate animals represented in archaeological contexts are extant. These data are lacking for freshwater mussels, frequently found in archaeological sites in eastern North America. Information relevant to determining the food energy provided by freshwater mussels common to much of the Mississippi River drainage is presented. Results are applicable to more credible interpretations of prehistoric subsistence as related to animal food resources.

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S. F. Cook 1946 A reconsideration of shell mounds with respect to population and nutrition. American Antiquity 12:5053.

Max R. Matteson 1960 Reconstruction of prehistoric environments through analysis of molluscan collections from shell middens. American Antiquity 26:117120.

Patrick J. Munson , Paul W. Parmalee , and Richard A. Yarnell 1971 Subsistence ecology of Scovil, a terminal Middle Woodland village. American Antiquity 36:410431.

Henry van der Schalie , and Annette van der Schalie 1950 The mussels of the Mississippi River. The American Midland Naturalist 44:448466.

Theodore White 1953 A method of calculating the dietary percentage of various food animals utilized by aboriginal peoples. American Antiquity 18:396398.

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