Evaluating intensification theory using coprolites from the Lower Pecos archaeological region of Texas

Date

2015

Authors

Dollar, Nathanael C.

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Abstract

This thesis evaluates intensification theory and subsistence in the Lower Pecos, Texas archaeological region using a meta-analysis of coprolite data. Coprolites are an excellent method for evaluating intensification theory as they provide a level of data quality generally unavailable from other sources. The study standardizes data from six previously published coprolite studies to create a data set of 305 Archaic period coprolites that provides an examination of subsistence patterns. The results fail to support the predictions of intensification theory. There is little difference between Early and Late Archaic coprolites and succulents appear in over 97% of all coprolites. Surprisingly, Early Archaic coprolites show more frequent use of other resources such as cactus seeds, other small seeds, like amaranth, and fruit when compared to the Late Archaic period. Early Archaic coprolites also have a higher mean percentage of volume of the coprolites being composed of succulent fiber and a wider variety of resources per coprolite. There are some limiting issues with the study, including challenges of reconstructing ancient population levels and combining data sets that used slightly different methods. The results of the study, however, do show statistically significant differences in diet between the Early Archaic period and the Late Archaic period in the Lower Pecos. These differences failed to support expectations for intensification theory and call for further direct evaluations of the theory and caution against simple assumptions that intensification has occurred in the past.

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Keywords

Coprolite, Diet, Intensification Theory, Lower Pecos, Subsistence, Texas

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Department

Anthropology