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Social boundaries, territoriality, and the cultural ecology of artiodactyl hunting in prehistoric central California

Whitaker, Adrian R., Rosenthal, Jeffrey S., Brandy, Paul
Quaternary international 2017
Antilocapra americana, Cervus canadensis nannodes, Odocoileus hemionus, databases, deer, elks, habitats, herding, home range, humans, models, politics, territoriality, California
Territoriality often arises as a way to ensure access to scarce or unevenly distributed resources. An unintended consequence, however, is a shift in the availability of other resources. We use Geographical Information Systems-based models to examine how political circumscription from territorial boundary defense affected human hunting decisions for three artiodactyl species: elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes), deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) in Central California, USA. Habitat suitability for each species is compared to a database of 189 archaeofaunal assemblages from the same area and deer are found to have been hunted to a greater extent than expected. Three potential (non-mutually exclusive) causes for the disagreement between predicted and observed artiodactyl frequencies are examined: resource depression, relative encounter rates, and political circumscription. We find no decline in the relative abundances of elk and pronghorn through time relative to deer or in all artiodactyls relative to lower-ranked mammalian species. Instead, the herding behavior and mobility of pronghorn and elk, in combination with vigorously-defended political boundaries, may have made hunting opportunities for these species unpredictable and opportunistic, while deer, who occupy small home ranges, are not affected by territorial boundaries leading to an over-abundance of deer bone in the archaeological record.