Brother Bear: The Role of Ursus americanus in Cherokee Society

Author(s): Heidi Altman; Tanya Peres

Year: 2017


Archaeological sites in the Southeastern United States often contain remains of the black bear (Ursus americanus), which, upon excavation, are placed into one of two general categories for further analysis: food or modified. The confines of these categories precondition interpretations of the bear remains, and limit possible crucial understanding of the roles of bears in the social life of the people who interacted with them. While the category of "food" can be further divided into quotidian or communal (feast) meals, the "modified" category is most frequently interpreted as "ceremonial" and left at that. Our paper, which is part of a larger series of papers, is a study in the ethnozooarchaeology of bears. We examine bears in the archaeological record from the pre-European Contact through Historic periods among peoples who lived in the region of the traditional Cherokee homeland. We compile archaeological data and combine their interpretations with information from ethnographic, ethnohistoric, and linguistic sources to offer a more robust construction of human-bear relationships, and their constancy through time into the present. By expanding the contexts through which bear remains are interpreted we offer new models for understanding the complex relationships between people and the animals whose world they share.

Cite this Record

Brother Bear: The Role of Ursus americanus in Cherokee Society. Heidi Altman, Tanya Peres. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431210)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16187