Cooperation or Competition? The Underwater Archaeology of Communal Hunting Structures

Author(s): Ashley Lemke; John O'Shea

Year: 2017


Forager cooperation can be difficult to detect in archaeological contexts. One approach is to focus on built structures, such as drive lanes or fishing weirs, which required the participation of multiple persons. Yet such features are ephemeral and vulnerable to disturbance and destruction. One way to circumvent these challenges is to target areas with excellent preservation, such as underwater contexts. For example, the cold, fresh water of the Great Lakes preserved 9,000 year old stone built hunting structures. Due to their submerged setting, these features are virtually intact, and their social and environmental contexts can be investigated on a regional scale. Structures range from simple hunting blinds to complex drive lanes; and their formal attributes including placement on the landscape can be used to infer group size, composition, and seasonality. Yet while communal hunting is often held as a classic example of forager cooperation, permanent built structures raise issues of ownership, property, and territoriality which are at odds with ideals of egalitarian hunter-gatherers. Therefore, the use of such structures by early Holocene foragers may reflect both cooperative and competitive behaviors. We present results from research under Lake Huron on communal hunting structures to comment on the nature of forager cooperation.

Cite this Record

Cooperation or Competition? The Underwater Archaeology of Communal Hunting Structures. Ashley Lemke, John O'Shea. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430841)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15497