Prehistoric subsistence on the coast of North Carolina: an archaeobotanical study Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Schaefer, Kimberly A.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • When European settlers first arrived on the coast of North Carolina, they encountered Native Americans who they described as living in permanent villages and pursuing a mixture of hunting, fishing, and farming. Very little is known of the subsistence practices of people in the area before the arrival of Europeans, however. My dissertation seeks to help rectify this by increasing our knowledge of plant use on the coast during prehistory. I analyzed plant remains from 606 flotation samples from eight sites on the coast and synthesize data from 13 previously reported sites. These sites are found on all subregions of the coast and include material from most periods of prehistory from the Early Archaic to the Late Woodland. Using this data, I explore several topics of interest to coastal archaeology in general: the value and use of coastal resources, seasonal mobility of coastal groups, and the nature of the adoption of agriculture on the coast. I discuss prehistoric subsistence in North Carolina within the framework of human behavioral ecology. I compile estimated handling return rates for different plant foods found on the coast and rank them in accordance with diet-breadth model building. I then explore the implications of the diet-breadth model and central place foraging models for prehistoric subsistence in coastal North Carolina. The plant resources with the highest estimated return rates correspond fairly well with the plant remains most frequently recovered from archaeological contexts. My results suggest that during most of prehistory people on the coast of North Carolina collected a fairly wide array of nuts, fruit, starchy and oily seeds, and weeds. Nuts, particularly hickory, seem to have been a mainstay of people's diets for most of prehistory. There is currently no evidence for farming on the coast before the Late Woodland period. During this time, some, but not all, coastal people began farming maize and, to a lesser extent, beans and squash. Over all, plant-based subsistence practices on the coast of North Carolina seem to have been fairly consistent throughout most of prehistory although the adoption of agriculture seems to have been highly localized.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Anthropology."
  • Scarry, C. Margaret
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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