Ponds, rivers and bison freezers : evaluating a behavioral ecological model of hunter-gatherer mobility on Idaho's Snake River Plain
Henrikson, Lael Suzann, 1959-
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Henrikson, Lael Suzann, 1959-
Archaeological evidence indicates that cold storage of bison meat was consistently practiced on the eastern Snake River Plain over the last 8000 years. Recent excavations in three cold lava tube caves have revealed a distinctive artifact assemblage of elk antler tines, broken handstones, and bison bone in association with frozen sagebrush features. Similar evidence has also been discovered in four other caves within the region. A patch choice model was utilized in this study to address how the long-term practice of caching bison meat in cold caves may have functioned in prehistoric subsistence patterns. Because the net return rate for bison was critical to the model, the hunting success of fur trappers occupying the eastern Snake River Plain during the early 1800s, as recorded in their daily journals, was examined and quantified. According to the model, the productivity of cold storage caves must be evaluated against the productivity of other patches on the eastern Snake River Plain, such as ephemeral ponds and linear river corridors from season to season and year to year. The model suggests that residential bases occurred only within river resource patches while ephemeral ponds and ice caves would contain sites indicative of seasonal base camps. The predictions of the model were tested against documented archaeological data from the Snake River Plain through the examination of Geographic Information Systems data provided by the Idaho Bureau of Land Management. The results of this analysis indicate that seasonal base camps are directly associated with both ephemeral and perennial water sources, providing strong support for the model's predictions. Likewise, the temporal distribution of sites within the study area indicates that climate change over the last 8000 years was not dramatic enough to alter long-term subsistence practices in the region. The long-term use of multiple resource patches across the region also confirms that, although the high return rates for bison made them very desirable prey, the over-all diet breadth for the eastern Snake River Plain was broad and included a variety of large and small game and plant foods. Bison and cold storage caves were a single component in a highly mobile seasonal round that persisted for some 8000 years, down to the time of written history in the 19th Century.
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