Long-Term Dietary Change among Hunters of the North American Great Plains


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2021: General Sessions" session, at the 86th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The 13,000-year-long record of hunting by North American Great Plains populations is often portrayed as an almost exclusive reliance on large-bodied prey, such as bison. This simplified perspective ignores temporal and regional variability in environmental conditions and changes in human-prey dynamics, making exclusive reliance on a single taxon unlikely. The alternative perspective, held by many archaeologists, that the importance big game hunting in Great Plains economies is greatly exaggerated. These claims are usually not derived from empirical analysis of long-term zooarchaeological evidence. In order to develop a more accurate view of long-term dietary changes in the Great Plains, we employ a large dataset of faunal remains from more than 200 sites, and investigate the broad patterns of dietary specialization and diversification used by Great Plains Indigenous people over the past 13,500 years. Our analyses find that even though prehistoric indigenous people of the Great Plains maintained a way of life associated with bison over time, bison was not the sole focus or dominant species in their diet. In addition, we observe that hunting strategies and dietary variation through time does not support a model of progressive resource intensification from hunting and gathering to farming.

Cite this Record

Long-Term Dietary Change among Hunters of the North American Great Plains. Matthew Hill, Erik Otárola-Castillo, Melissa Torquato. Presented at The 86th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. 2021 ( tDAR id: 467735)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 33371