Shell Heaps as Indicators of Resource Management

Author(s): Tanya Peres; Aaron Deter-Wolf

Year: 2018


The Neolithic Revolution of the 9th millennium BC marks the period when forager groups independently experimented with the management and, in some instances, the domestication of terrestrial plants and animals. However, global evidence for human consumption and management of gastropods predates the Neolithic Revolution, indicating that terrestrial and aquatic snails were an important resource for human societies during the Holocene. Abundant deposits of aquatic snails are reported from archaeological sites in Mesoamerica, Japan, and China, while the consumption of land snails is well-documented in the Iberian Peninsula, the circum-Mediterranean area, Africa, and North and South America. These studies show the temporal depth and spatial breadth of human’s knowledge of, and interaction with, gastropods. Along the interior waterways of the American Southeast, accumulations of freshwater gastropods appear in archaeological sites during the pan-regional culture phase of the Shell Mound Archaic, from approximately 7000 to 1000 cal BC. Using data from zooarchaeology, geoarchaeology, invertebrate zoology, and taphonomy, we show that the anthropogenically induced freshwater gastropod deposits along the Cumberland River in the American Southeast comprise the oldest documented occurrence of freshwater aquaculture in the Americas, ca. 5300 cal BC.

Cite this Record

Shell Heaps as Indicators of Resource Management. Tanya Peres, Aaron Deter-Wolf. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444568)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.735; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -73.389; max lat: 39.572 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20939