An examination of species diversity and bison processing intensity contextualized within an aboriginal seasonality framework for late precontact sites on the Canadian northeastern plains
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This dissertation considers faunal recoveries from a selection of archaeological sites located in the Canadian Northeastern Plains that date between AD 1000 and 1600. These faunal assemblages derive from three different archaeological cultures that are thought to reflect different subsistence orientations. The analysis quantifies this variability by assessing the taxonomic abundance and intensity of bone processing evident in the recoveries. At issue is determination whether variability in the faunal assemblage reflects differences in subsistence economy deriving from the diverse origins of these societies. This requires control over other potential contributors to variability. This includes ecological comparability of the site localities, consistency of excavation, sampling and analytic methods, and similarities in site function. Particularly important is determination that the selected sites reflect comparable seasons of site occupation. This latter consideration is important since the established archaeological and ethnological literature suggests that both available resources and the economic orientation of resident populations varied significantly with season. To this end, a major research component focused on the development of more refined means of determining the season of site occupation by measuring the degree of osteological development of recovered foetal bison bones. The creation of linear regression equations based on these measurements will allow applied archaeologists to establish season of site occupation without the need for a large, difficult to obtain foetal bison comparative collection. The analysis suggests the variability in the faunal assemblages occurs independently of site cultural affiliation, and might reflect economic activities conditioned by more finely divided seasonal divisions than is apparent with the conventional four-season model deriving from agrarian European societies. Aboriginal language markers, specifically moon-names, were used to identify significant biophysical and bison reproductive events. By placing the six sites within Aboriginal concepts of seasonality, animal food subsistence choices are better understood. These results have implications for the classification scheme archaeologists have used to define subsistence strategies.