Reconsidering Mass-Capture Fishing Practices: Methodological and Theoretical Implications

Author(s): Ginessa Mahar

Year: 2016


The term “mass-capture” is widely used in archaeological and zooarchaeological discourse to connote any form of capture that results in the simultaneous collection of multiple organisms. However, mass-capture as an umbrella term obscures critical variation among diverse techniques that have implications for anthropological interpretation. Nowhere does this limitation have more of an impact than in coastal settings, where fishes and shellfishes constitute the majority of subsistence prey items.

This paper reconsiders mass-capture technologies as they apply to fishing practices along the coast of the southeastern United States. Recent research has begun to more intensively investigate southeastern fisheries, addressing issues of antiquity, intensification, and sustainability. Using zooarchaeological analysis, these researchers have speculated on the types of fishing techniques used in antiquity and the potential ecological and social impacts of these practices—particularly mass-capture practices. The present research adds to this discussion by unpacking the term mass-capture and challenging common assumptions about what it might mean for the anthropological interpretation of past coastal dwelling. Additionally, novel data pertaining to fish weirs and seine nets will be presented as part of my ongoing research along the North Florida Gulf Coast featuring ethnographic, archaeological, and experimental methods.

Cite this Record

Reconsidering Mass-Capture Fishing Practices: Methodological and Theoretical Implications. Ginessa Mahar. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404229)

Spatial Coverage

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