Diet Breadth Narrowing at the Pleistocene/Holocene Transition: Faunal Evidence from Dust Cave, Alabama

Author(s): Elic Weitzel

Year: 2015


Paleoenvironmental data from the Younger Dryas and Early Holocene indicate that plant and animal communities in the southeastern United States changed substantially between these periods. These reconstructions indicate that during the Early Holocene, climatic amelioration and changes in forest composition may have led to increases in populations of large-bodied animals that were depressed during the Younger Dryas. Based on these data, I hypothesized that there would have been a narrowing of diet breadth during this transition as foraging efficiency increased in the Early Holocene and human foragers exploited increasingly abundant high-ranking prey items. I tested this prediction using the faunal dataset from Dust Cave, Alabama. This site was inhabited from 12,650 to 5,700 cal BP, spanning the Late Pleistocene, Early Holocene, and Middle Holocene periods. I applied abundance indices based upon prey body size as well as measures of richness, equitability, and diversity to this dataset to quantify dietary changes that occurred during this time period. My analysis demonstrates that there was a general narrowing of diet breadth from the Late Pleistocene to the Early Holocene at Dust Cave, with later diets focusing on large-bodied taxa that were most likely to have provided the highest caloric return rates.

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Cite this Record

Diet Breadth Narrowing at the Pleistocene/Holocene Transition: Faunal Evidence from Dust Cave, Alabama. Elic Weitzel. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397454)

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min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;