Sierra Blanca, NM
Notes on Sierra Blanca faunal data
Jon Driver, July 2012
In 1985 I published “Zooarchaeology of Six Prehistoric Sites in the Sierra Blanca Region, New Mexico” (Museum of Anthropology University of Michigan Technical Report Number 17). This was an analysis of faunal material recovered by Jane Holden Kelley in the 1950’s from six sites: Penasco, Bonnell, Bloom Mound, Block Lookout, Phillips and Hiner.
Analysis took place in the early 1980’s, and focused on mammals. Data were recorded by hand on standardized sheets. Some descriptors were standardized using a coding system (described in the 1985 publication on pp. 8-10). Sheets contained information on taxon, element, part (e.g. whole, proximal, distal etc), portion (expressed as tenths of whole bone), breakage unit (what part of the element was present, e.g. for long bones a code of ‘4’ meant the proximal unfused epiphysis), length, fusion at proximal/anterior end, fusion at distal/posterior end, type of break, modification.
These handwritten descriptions were then used to produce the tables used in the 1985 publication.
In 2011 I hired a graduate student at Simon Fraser University to enter all the data on Excel spreadsheets. The instructions were to enter the following:
1. Catalogue number (usually a provenience rather than unique number for each specimen)
2. Taxon (to be coded using a more recent system I had developed for Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and archived on tDAR)
3. Element (to be coded using the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center format)
4. Do not code “part” from the original handwritten sheets, as this is considered redundant
5. Portion of complete specimen (expressed in tenths) – use code on original sheets – e.g. if ‘2/10’ code as ‘2’
6. Breakage unit – use code on original sheets, as described in 1985 publication
7. Length – use code on sheets. 1 = up to 1cm long, 2 = up to 2cm long etc.
8. Proximal/anterior fusion – use code on sheets, except if there was a note that it was neonatal, fetal or “very immature”, in which case code as ‘Z’
9. Distal/posterior fusion – use code on sheets, except if there was a note that it was neonatal, fetal or “very immature”, in which case code as ‘Z’
10. Modification – code as ‘C’ (cut), ‘G’ (gnawed by carnivores) or ‘B’ (burnt)
11. Breakage – do not record
The student noted a number of problems encountered when transferring handwritten data to electronic spreadsheets. These include handwriting that was difficult to read, and taxa or elements that didn’t have an equivalent code in the CCAC system. She also identified a number of instances when data in the early 1980’s had not been coded in a systematic fashion. For example, one sheet simply noted that there were a large number of pocket gopher mandibles that were all complete, all in a certain size range, and then listed all the proveniences. Where possible, all such anomalies were systematized as far as possible into the spreadsheet. Another problem was that in the early 1980’s I didn’t have good access to a comparative bird collection, so the bird bones were simply counted for each site (fortunately there were not many of them). This is a weakness of the original analysis that cannot be corrected until the original specimens can be re-studied.
A few taxon codes are not present in the CCAC manual (that was developed for work in SW Colorado):
TUR: turtle (probably Testudinae)
LSCI: large sciurid (Cynomys or Spermophilus size)
MAM: Mammal (no further i.d. made)
Note also that some of the identifications made in the early 1980’s I would not make today. For example, if I could not identify the element (or could only identify it as “axial” or “long bone”) I would consider the specimen unidentifiable, and I would not even assign a very general category (such as “small mammal”) to it. Re-reading the 1985 publication, it is clear that I regarded specimens in the small, medium and large mammal categories as the equivalent of unidentified specimens.
Cite this Record
Sierra Blanca, NM. ( tDAR id: 376400) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8KH0PRJ
Data Recovery / Excavation
Individual & Institutional Roles
Contact(s): Jonathan Driver
General Note: Users of the datasets should cite and consult the following: Driver, Jonathan C. 1985 Zooarchaeology of Six Prehistoric Sites in the Sierra Blanca Region, New Mexico. Museum of Anthropology University of Michigan Technical Report Number 17.