Costly Gobbling: Raising Turkeys in the Central Mesa Verde Area


In the Central Mesa Verde (CMV) area of the Southwest, turkey bones increased markedly relative to those of artiodactyls in sites of the late AD 1100s and 1200s. We present an exploratory model of the proportional contribution of turkeys, artiodactyls, and small mammals to the animal protein component of the diet. Assuming a demand of 5 to 10 g of animal protein/person/day, we estimate that more than half that demand was met by turkeys in the mid-1200s. Both turkeys and humans relied heavily on maize; raising a "food turkey" would have annually required a third as much maize as would an adult human. Depending on turkeys for animal protein may have created a "rigidity trap". High population and aggregation led to wild game depletion. Continued population growth promoted more dependence on turkeys, requiring even more reliance on maize (and fresh water sources) in a CMV subsistence economy based on dry farming. The Northern Rio Grande (NRG) received substantial migrations from the CMV in the late 1200s. Although turkeys became more important in the NRG after AD 1250, our model indicates artiodactyls continued to supply the majority of animal protein there.

Cite this Record

Costly Gobbling: Raising Turkeys in the Central Mesa Verde Area. William Lipe, Laura Ellyson, Kyle Bocinsky, Robin Lyle, Matson R.G.. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429042)

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Diet Model Turkeys

Geographic Keywords
North America - Southwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14655