Honoring Cowtown: Cattle Husbandry in Historical Zooarchaeology

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2017

In honor of Fort Worth’s storied history and continued involvement in the American livestock industry, the papers presented in this session focus on the zooarchaeological study of cattle and cattle husbandry across time and space. Since their domestication over 8,000 years ago, cattle have been important sources of food, labor, leather, and social capital, amongst other things. The ways in which cattle are raised are heavily dependent on the cultural context in which they are raised and the desired product(s) from raising the cattle. Thus, the study of cattle and cattle husbandry from various times and locations in the past can illuminate our understanding of the larger world in which these bovines lived. From market systems to butchery, ranching to dairy production, join us as we look at past cultures through the remains of cattle and honor Fort Worth, the original American Cowtown.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-11 of 11)

  • Documents (11)

  • A 1611 Blockhouse and Earthworks for the Protection of Cattle: Virginia’s Earliest Bovine Husbandry, near Jamestown (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alain C. Outlaw.

    From the earliest years of the English colonization of Virginia, Bos taurus played a significant role in settlement as a source of meat, dairy products, and draft power. Following the "Starving Time" winter of 1609/1610, when everything wild and domestic that could be eaten was consumed, including human flesh, on-the-hoof animals, as opposed to barreled beef, entered the colony.  These animals soon were being taken by Native Americans.  Thus, upon his arrival in May 1611, Sir Thomas Dale ordered...

  • California’s Corporate Cattle (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Melonie R Shier.

    When thinking about open range cattle production, seldom is that image linked to a picture of corporate America. The Kern County Land Company operating on over 2 million acres of land in the American West, much of it devoted to animal husbandry. All stages of husbandry was operated by the Kern County Land Company from the cow / calf operations to the abattoir and shipping to supermarkets.  In the San Emigdio Hills in south central California, where this paper will focus, the Emigdio Ranch was...

  • Cattle Husbandry Practices at Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest: the Relationships Between Environment, Economy, and Enslavement (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jenn Ogborne.

    Cattle were not the primary focus of Thomas Jefferson’s Bedford County plantation, but he did maintain a small herd, divided between the quarter farms that comprised Poplar Forest, for various purposes. These included dairying, some meat production, and manure. Cattle were also driven in small numbers to Monticello, herded by enslaved individuals living at Poplar Forest. In addition to live animals, dairy products were also sent regularly to Monticello. While herding and dairying activities are...

  • Cattle In Charleston And South Carolina's Lowcountry (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Martha Zierden. Elizabeth J. Reitz.

    When colonists settled Carolina in the late 17th century they encountered a bountiful land.  They immediately planted cattle, that thrived in the pinewoods, canebreaks, and marshes of the lowcountry.  Most of these cattle were raised under free-range conditions.  Three decades of archaeological research in Charleston, South Carolina, show that the flourishing cattle herds influenced the city's economy and diet. Measurements of cattle bones and analysis of recovered horn cores indicate that the...

  • Cattle Power: From Domestication to Ranching (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nerissa Russell.

    I argue that, in contrast to other early animal domesticates, cattle domestication in the Near Eastern Neolithic was motivated largely by the symbolic value of wild cattle (aurochsen).  Already the centerpieces of feasts and ceremonies, subject to ritual treatment, and probably playing a key role in Neolithic religion, domestication brought these powerful animals under human control, and ensured a ready supply for ceremonies.  I suggest that this pre-existing symbolic and spiritual power shaped...

  • Cattle Ranching and O’odham Communities in the Pimería Alta: Zooarchaeological and Historical Perspectives (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman. Nicole Mathwich.

    Cattle and other European livestock were important to the economic and cultural development of western North America; however, the celebrated cowboy and vaquero cultures of the region emerged out of a complex Spanish colonial tradition that began with missionized native peoples who became adept at ranching. The Pimería Alta, what is today northern Sonora and southern Arizona, provides an excellent case study of the many ways that the cattle introduced at missions became rapidly intertwined with...

  • Five Pounds Beef, Five Pounds Poi, and One Gallon Milk: Archaeological and Social Implications of Employee Meat Allowances on Hawaiʻi's Parker Ranch (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Benjamin T Barna. Lauren M U K Tam Sing.

    During a recent contract project on Hawaiʻi Island’s Parker Ranch, ASM Affiliates recorded the ranch’s former slaughterhouse and interviewed several former ranch employees who had been involved in slaughtering and butchering the ranch's beef. Our discussions with them included descriptions of a beef allowance provided by Parker Ranch to its employees, a practice one of many ways the ranch took care of its own. Because the allowance was limited to specific cuts of meat, we analyized faunal...

  • Happy Trails: The Archaeology of Backcountry Cowpens in Colonial South Carolina (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mark D Groover.

    Cattle raising was prevalent and lucrative in 1700s South Carolina.  Site investigations conducted at the Thomas Howell and Catherine Brown cowpens revealed the material characteristics of mid-century cattle raisers in the South Carolina interior frontier or backcountry.  The study households were of Welsh ancestry and enslaved Africans also lived at the two cowpens.  Although financially prosperous, archaeology illustrates the Brown and Howell families experienced frontier living conditions...

  • Lowcountry Livestock Production: Eighteenth-Century Cattle Husbandry at Drayton Hall (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jenna K Carlson.

                The Proprietors of colonial South Carolina had wanted the colonists to be "planters and not graziers."  However, the mild winters of South Carolina and the abundant range-lands were perfect for livestock production, and the livestock industry soon provided the financial foundation for many colonists to be planters as well as graziers.  Utilizing faunal evidence from eighteenth-century assemblages from Drayton Hall, this paper explores the changing cattle husbandry strategies employed...

  • Military Diet on the Border: Butchery Analysis at Fort Brown (41CF96) Cameron County, TX (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Crystal A Dozier.

    Archaeological investigations at Fort Brown (41CF96) have provided a wealth of information about military life in south Texas. This re-analysis of the faunal material recovered by the Archaeological Research Laboratory’s survey efforts in 1988 investigates butchery patterns found at the site. The butchering patterns for cattle are decidedly unlike modern practice; while some evidence for typical modern cuts, like steaks exist, beef ox coxae and sacrum were sliced similarly to more meat-bearing...

  • Style and Sustenance: A Comparative Investigation of Cattle Husbandry, Beef Butchery, and Gentry Cuisine in Eighteenth-Century British Colonial Virginia and Connecticut (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dessa E. Lightfoot.

    Cattle husbandry systems in Colonial Virginia and Colonial Connecticut diverged greatly from a shared British origin. Husbandry choices were not made in isolation, but instead this divergence was the result of a complex interplay between colonial goals, social organization, and changing British culinary fashions.  Did the role of beef in regional Virginian and Connecticuter cuisines vary from contemporary British uses?  Did they vary significantly from each other?  By exploring the history of...