Were Turkeys Domesticated by Prehistoric Farmers in Oklahoma?

Author(s): Mary Faith Flores; Brian M. Kemp; Marc Levine

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Current Research on Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) Domestication, Husbandry and Management in North America and Beyond" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) were domesticated by Basketmaker peoples in the American Southwest and independently by prehispanic Mesoamerican groups, yet relatively little is known about the nature and origin of ancient Oklahoma turkeys. In this project, we analyze the genetic and stable isotope composition of ancient Oklahoma turkey specimens to determine whether they were domestic or wild. The first stage of the investigation uses mitochondrial DNA sequencing to determine which genetic lineages of the turkeys were once in Oklahoma, comparing archaeological samples to reference subspecies – M. g. intermedia (Rio Grande turkey), M. g. merriami (Merriam’s turkey), and M. g. silvestris (Eastern turkey). We expect that domestic populations will show reduced genetic variability relative to wild populations, as farmers selectively breed only a few birds for desired traits. The next step is measuring the ratios of stable carbon (13C/12C) and nitrogen (15N/14N) isotopes, which are indicative of diet. We will use this analysis to reveal if the turkeys were foraging or being fed maize by farmers. Following previous studies, ours should reveal if native groups in Oklahoma exploited turkeys like other ancient North American societies did.

Cite this Record

Were Turkeys Domesticated by Prehistoric Farmers in Oklahoma?. Mary Faith Flores, Brian M. Kemp, Marc Levine. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450881)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 24819