Holocene Environmental Change, Artiodactyl Abundances, and Human Hunting Strategies in the Great Basin


Despite a deep Great Basin tradition of incorporating paleoenvironmental change within ecologically oriented analyses of past human lifeways, there has been little attention focused on Holocene variation in artiodactyl abundances and the human hunting strategies dependent upon them. Here, we draw upon recently generated paleontological evidence from Homestead Cave of the Bonneville Basin to document a late Holocene artiodactyl population increase. We then use the prey model of foraging theory to predict late Holocene increases in the hunting of artiodactyls, relative to lagomorphs. That prediction is then tested against several fine-grained archaeological records of hunting behavior in the Bonneville Basin, Hogup Cave and Camels Back Cave, and a variety of more coarse-grained faunal records from throughout the Great Basin. Close fits are found between the deductively derived prediction and the empirical records of hunting behavior: dramatic proportional increases in artiodactyl hunting occurred during the late Holocene. The results have far-reaching implications for our understanding of prehistoric human adaptations in the Great Basin.

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American Antiquity