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Archaeological correlates of population management of the eastern wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) with a case study from the American South

Peres, Tanya M., Ledford, Kelly L.
Journal of archaeological science: Reports 2016 v.10 pp. 547-556
American Indians, Meleagris gallopavo, Mississippian period, adults, archaeology, case studies, fauna, feathers, females, humans, males, meat, oviposition, turkeys, wildlife management, Alabama, Tennessee
The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) was an important food resource to Precolumbian Native Americans; however, little attention has been given to the subject of turkey husbandry, or use in the American Southeast. We thus present demographic turkey data from the Mississippian Period Fewkes site in Tennessee, ethnographic and ethnohistoric information on Southeastern Native Americans, and material culture data from Tennessee and Alabama to explore the use and potential management of eastern wild turkeys (M. gallopavo silvestris). The osteometric data from the Fewkes site indicates that both male and female adult turkeys are represented in the faunal assemblage, with males being present in equal or greater numbers than females. It appears that the female specimens were not taken during the egg-laying period. The results can be interpreted as either the result of humans managing local turkey populations as sources of both meat and feathers, or occasional selective hunting of large adult males.