Coastal Weeden Island subsistence adaptations
Orr, Kelly L.
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The nature of regional subsistence patterns during the Woodland period (circa 1200 B.C. to A.D. 1000) is unresolved, yet comparison of several southeastern faunal assemblages indicates distinct coastal versus inland subsistence adaptations. Zooarchaeological evidence from Bayou St. John (1BA21), located in Baldwin County, Alabama, indicates that inhabitants of the site relied on locally-available estuarine resources with an emphasis on bony fishes. The collection is characterized by the dominance of mullets and sea catfishes, a relatively high biomass contribution from sheepshead, and a minor reliance on fishes in the drum and jack families. Although representing a minor percentage of individuals, deer made a relatively high biomass contribution. These dominant resources are supplemented by additional estuarine fishes and a rich array of other wild resources, which provided dietary variety and reduced subsistence-related risks. The zooarchaeological data from Bayou St. John suggest that the richness of the local estuarine setting supported year-round occupation of the Gulf Coast and did not necessitate seasonal migrations. Rather, inhabitants of Bayou St. John used a variety of subsistence technologies to exploit a diversity of local fishery resources essentially, if not entirely, throughout the year. The Gulf Coast Weeden Island subsistence adaptation identified here differs from that identified at inland sites and represents a generalized foraging strategy emphasizing locally-abundant estuarine resources, many of which occur in resource aggregations or patches that can be efficiently harvested via mass-capture techniques.