Cultural Dimensions of Food Procurement on Martha’s Vineyard

Author(s): Jessica Watson

Year: 2017


Archaeology along the Northeastern coast of the United States has often focused on island and coastal industries, with particular emphasis on shell midden deposits. Subsistence-focused research shows us that seafood played a large role in prehistoric diets, yet these studies rarely focus on the cultural dimensions of these foods. Faunal remains on Martha’s Vineyard show that early residents ate a diverse selection of land and sea animals. Identified bones reveal a broad diet of mammals, including White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and canids; fish, ranging from inland freshwater species to marine species; and birds, including terrestrial, nearshore, and offshore taxa. These fauna have previously been studied for their basic dietary and environmental data. In this presentation they will be examined in terms of their cultural role in prehistoric settlements on the island. Analysis looks at the social aspects of food procurement, processing, and discard during the Archaic and Woodland periods. Issues discussed include the role of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) in food procurement, gendered roles of offshore bird hunting, and trade and transportation of animals to the island. This research incorporates stable isotope analysis with traditional zooarchaeological data to better address the role of food in social identity and trade.

Cite this Record

Cultural Dimensions of Food Procurement on Martha’s Vineyard. Jessica Watson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429210)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.815; min lat: 39.3 ; max long: -66.753; max lat: 47.398 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14589