From Colonization to Domestication: A Historical Ecological Analysis of Paleoindian and Archaic Subsistence and Landscape Use in Central Tennessee
AuthorMiller, Darcy Shane
Origins of Agriculture
Southeastern United States
AdvisorHolliday, Vance T.
Kuhn, Steven L.
Committee ChairHolliday, Vance T.
Kuhn, Steven L.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractMy dissertation project utilizes a theoretical perspective derived from historical ecology to explore the trajectory in prehistoric subsistence that began with the initial colonization of the region and eventually led to the domestication of indigenous plants, such as goosefoot and maygrass, roughly 5,000 calendar years ago. Because a major handicap for exploring prehistoric subsistence in eastern North America is the rarity of sites with preserved flora and fauna, I apply formal models derived from behavioral ecology to stone tool assemblages and archaeological site distributions to evaluate models that have been proposed for the emergence of domesticated plants. Based on my results, I argue that the origins of plant domestication came about within the context of a boom/bust cycle that has its roots in the Late Pleistocene and culminated in the Mid-Holocene. More specifically, warming climate caused a significant peak in the availability of shellfish, oak, hickory, and deer, which generated a "tipping point" during the Middle Archaic period where hunter-gatherer groups narrowed their focus on these resources. After this "boom" ended, some groups shifted to other plant resources that they could intensively exploit in the same manner as oak and hickory, which included the suite of plants that were subsequently domesticated. This is likely due the combined effects of increasing population and declining returns from hunting, which is evident in my analysis of biface technological organization and site distributions from the lower Tennessee and Duck River Valleys. Consequently, these conclusions are an alternative to Smith's (2011) assertion that plant domestication in eastern North America came about as a result of gradual niche construction with no evidence for resource imbalance or population packing.
Degree ProgramGraduate College