Zooarchaeological analysis of vertebrate remains from five Late Archaic shell rings on the Georgia coast, USA
Colaninno, Carol Elizabeth
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This research documents human-animal interactions on the Georgia coast during the Late Archaic (3000-2000 cal B.C.). Results of multiple analyses indicate that Late Archaic people fished estuaries extensively, but fish populations were not impacted to the same extent, either anthropogenically or non-anthropogenically, as present-day fish populations. Archaeofaunal collections from five shell rings, which are shell-bearing archaeological formations with mounded shell arranged in a circular pattern around a shell-free center, are analyzed. The collections are from three sea islands and include: the Cannon’s Point (9GN57) and West (9GN76) Rings, St. Simons Island; Ring III of the Sapelo Island Shell Ring complex (9MC23), Sapelo Island; and the St. Catherines (9LI231) and McQueen (9LI1648) Shell Rings, St. Catherines Island. The shell ring collections are dominated by estuarine fishes. Sea catfishes, mullets, and drums are the most abundant taxa; other fishes also are present, but to a lesser extent. Deer contribute very few individuals, but sometimes a large percentage of the biomass. Late Archaic people used mass-capture technologies to exploit small-bodied, estuarine fishes. The fishes most frequently used reflect the local environmental parameters in each estuary. For example, fishes that prefer lower salinities are more common in shell ring collections from St. Simons Island, which is surrounded by an estuary with a large freshwater input. At the St. Catherines Shell Ring, several zooarchaeological measures including abundance of taxa, diversity, richness, equitability, mean trophic level, and abundance of different fish body sizes and capture type are compared from multiple sections of the ring. The analysis suggests that sections of the ring itself are similar, while remains from the interior of the ring differ from those of the ring itself. The terminal increment in fish otoliths and δ18Ootolith are used to establish the temperature the fish experienced at death. These analyses show that fishing occurred during all four seasons. The incremental structures of modern and archaeological hardhead catfish and Atlantic croaker otoliths suggest that fish grew more slowly in the past compared to present-day growth rates. Possible factors for changes in growth include anthropogenic environmental changes, such as pollution and overfishing, and non-anthropogenic environmental change.