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Pronghorn procurement on the northern plains : a case for small-scale hunting



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In general, when an archaeologist addresses the issue of faunal procurement on the Plains, especially the northern Plains, the model used entails the communal hunting of bison. The non-communal procurement of a secondary prey species is frequently overlooked by Plains archaeologists. It is the intent of this thesis to present a pronghorn procurement strategy that aligns itself with the current archaeological evidence, gathered from across the northern Plains. Based on the abundance of Wyoming and Great Basin communal pronghorn procurement features, along with a single northern Plains trapping structure, the procurement of pronghorn is often regarded as a communal undertaking. However, a review of the site literature reveals that archaeological pronghorn remains are present in small quantities in numerous habitation sites situated throughout their prehistoric range. In addition, evidence for pronghorn kill sites on the northern Plains is minimal at present. This leaves one to ponder the question; why are small quantities of pronghorn remains present in campsites across the northern Plains? The first part of this thesis addresses the above question through the examination of the unique behavioural and morphological characteristics of the pronghorn, as well as bow and arrow technology. This is undertaken in order to demonstrate the suitability of both the pronghorn and the aboriginal hunting technology to small-scale procurement. In addition ethnographic, historic and archaeological data concerning pronghorn procurement on the northern Plains are presented in a framework that allows for a revision of prevailing models concerning this activity. In addition, small-scale and communal procurement is analyzed within the theoretical framework of optimal foraging theory. This provides evidence that the small-scale hunting of pronghorn was an efficient hunting strategy and therefore it is reasonable to assume that it was practiced prehistorically. The remainder of this thesis addresses a secondary, yet relevant, question involving the lack of visibility of pronghorn remains in the archaeological record. If pronghorn were an obtainable and useful secondary resource then why are such small quantities of bone present at archaeological sites situated within ideal pronghorn habitat? This question is explored within the context of bone survivorship. With both cultural and non-cultural reasons for the differential preservation of pronghorn remains being outlined. Specifically, carnivore attrition, weathering and trampling are explored as possible non-cultural agents that affect the archaeological visibility of pronghorn assemblages. Cultural processes include primary/secondary butchering and processing strategies as well as carcass transportation decisions are also investigated. In addition, the pronghorn assemblages from EbPi-75 and D1Ou-72 are statistically tested to determine if bone density has any correlation to element frequency. Finally, the two recently excavated northern Plains pronghorn assemblages from EbPi-75 and D1Ou-72 are analyzed and compared to the existing body of archaeological research from the northern Plains, High Plains, and the Wyoming Basin. From this comparison and the thesis research in general, a new model for pronghorn procurement is developed that better suits the northern Plains archaeological record to date.





Master of Arts (M.A.)






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