Black Bear Use through Time in the Southern Appalachians

Author(s): Heather Lapham; Thomas Whyte

Year: 2017


Historic accounts of Fort San Juan, a Spanish garrison built near the native village of Joara in the late 1560s in western North Carolina, inform us that chiefs from neighboring towns brought "meat and maize" to the soldiers on various occasions. Based on the high proportion of bear in the fort faunal assemblage, it seems likely that the foods gifted to the Spaniards included bear meat. A recent zooarchaeological study suggests that native peoples provisioned the soldiers with some prime bear meat and meat dishes in a prepared or partially prepared state. Thinking about possible sources of these provisioned meats, we review the archaeological record of black bears (Ursus americanus) in the southern Appalachian Mountains and adjacent Piedmont region of Virginia and North Carolina from the fifth through the seventeenth century to better understand Native American bear procurement and use. Differences among the sites in geographic location, occupation period, disposal methods, and other variables suggest changing patterns of bear use through time. We explore reasons for these patterns, and present a brief contextual study of bear remains from several sites to more clearly define the role of bear in ritual, mortuary practices, and subsistence within these communities.

Cite this Record

Black Bear Use through Time in the Southern Appalachians. Heather Lapham, Thomas Whyte. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431214)


Geographic Keywords
North America - Southeast

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17131