Subsistence Remains
from
Prehistoric North Carolina Archaeological Sites


John F. Scarry
C. Margaret Scarry

Research Laboratories of Archaeology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

October, 1997

Partially funded under a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service,
as adminstered by the Historic Preservation Office, North Carolina Division of Archives and History.

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
The Sample of Sites
Archaeobotanical Remains
   Nuts
   Fruits
   Crops
Zooarchaeological Remains
   Invertebrates
   Fish
   Amphibians and Reptiles
   Birds
   Mammals
Patterning in Subsistence Remains
    Archaeobotanical Remains
      Nuts
      Fruits
      Crops
    Zooarchaeological Remains
      Invertebrates
      Fish
      Amphibians and Reptiles
      Birds
      Mammals
Chronological Patterning in Subsistence Remains
    Archaeobotanical Remains
      Nuts
      Fruits
      Crops
    Zooarchaeological Remains
      Invertebrates
      Fish
      Amphibians and Reptiles
      Birds
      Mammals
References
The Project Databases

Preface

Introduction

The data summarized here were compiled as part of a research project funded by a National Park Service Survey and Planning Grant to the Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, through the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, State Historic Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology. John F. Scarry served as Principal Investigator for the project; C. Margaret Scarry served as Project Coordinator. Mark A. Mathis, Office of State Archaeology, served as the Grant Project Specialist for the Division.

The project had several goals. All of these goals revolve around the recognized needs to make the results of public archaeological projects available to a wider audience of archaeologists and members of the general public and to assist archaeologists working in North Carolina in formulating and answering questions about the archaeological record. The specific objectives of our research were:

The results of our research are presented in tables and narratives linked to this page. The raw compiled data are also available from the Office of State Archaeology.

The Sample of Sites

The archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological collections reported here were recovered from 113 distinct cultural components at 93 archaeological sites. Summary information about the sites from which the analyzed remains have been recovered is provided at the attached page.

The sampled components and sites are not evenly distributed by either region or time period (see below). Most of them are from the coastal region or the piedmont, and most of them are from later chronological periods.

Click here to see information about the sites with analyzed subsistence remains.

Archaeobotanical Remains from North Carolina Archaeological Sites

The archaeobotanical remains reported here were recovered from 52 components at 39 sites. The sampled components and sites are not evenly distributed by either region or time period. Most of the components are from the piedmont (n=29) and the coast (n=15). The components also date to later time periods (only 11 predate the Late Woodland) (see below).

Nuts

Of the subsistence remains, nuts are the most widely distributed in both space and time. Among the species represented in the analyzed collections are several taxa from the walnut family (Juglandaceae): pecan (Carya illinoensis), hickory (Carya sp.), butternut (Juglans cinerea), and black walnut (Juglans nigra). Also found in the collections were beech (Fagus grandifolia), chestnut (Castanea dentata), acorn (Quercus sp.), and hazelnut (Corylus sp.). Hickory nuts and acorns were probably the most widely utilized plant foods. They have been found at sites of all time periods and from all regions of the state. For much of the prehistoric period, nuts were undoubtedly a major food source, supply calories, fat (hickories), and starches (acorns). They may have been partially replaced as a source of calories and starches during the Late Prehistoric period by cultivated plants such as corn.

Fruits

Fruits were obtained from 16 different taxa. Among the more widely distributed and common fruits are persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), maypop (Passiflora incarnata), plum and cherry (Prunus sp.), bramble (Rubus sp.), and grape (Vitis sp.). Fruits served as major sources of vitimins for the prehistoric peoples of North Carolina. As such, they undoubtedly formed an important part of the diet (although perhaps a seasonal part).

Crops

Remains of several taxa of cultivated and domesticated plants have been recovered from archaeological sites in North Carolina. Among these are eight taxa that are native eastern North American cultigens: chenopodium (Chenopodium berlandieri), squash (Cucurbita pepo), sunflower (Helianthus annuus), little barley (Hordeum pusillum), sumpweed (Iva annua), bottle gourd (Lagenaria vulgaris), maygrass (Phalaris caroliniana), and knotween (Polygonum). We have also recovered the remains of the two quintissential New World domesticates, corn (Zea mays) and the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), from.most Late Prehistoric and Contact period sites that have yielded archaeobotanical remains. Several late (Protohistoric, Contact, and Early Historic period) site have also yielded remains of domesticated plants introduced to North Carolina from the Old World. To date, two taxa of Old World crops have been found on sites in the Piedmont: watermelon (Citrullus vulgaris) and peach (Prunus persica). Both of these plants were adopted by the native peoples of eastern North American and incorporated into subsistence regimes very early.

Click here to examine the archaeobotanical data.

Zooarchaeological Remains from North Carolina Archaeological Sites

The zooarchaeological remains reported here were recovered from 61 components at 51 sites. The sampled components and sites are not evenly distributed by region or time period. Most of the components are from the coastal region (n=39) or the piedmont (n=17), and only 20 of them predate the Late Woodland (see below).

Invertebrates

Invertebrates are, not surprisingly, most common in the collections from coastal sites, although freshwater shellfish have been recovered from some inland sites. Forty-four taxa of invertebrates have been identified in collections from North Carolina archaeological sites. Along the coast, oysters (Crassostrea virginia) and clams (Mercenaria mercenaria and Chione sp.) are typically the most abundant components of shell middens, and probably contributed substantial numbers of calories to the diet. Other taxa that are frequently found in coastal sites are scallops (Aequipecten sp.) and larger gastropods such as whelk (Busycon sp.). From inland sites, freshwater mussels (Elliptio sp., Fusconaia sp., and Ligumia nasuta) and snails are often found at riverine sites.

Fish

Fish remains have been recovered from sites in all regions of the state, although they are most common in the analyzed collections from coastal sites. Whether this represents sampling bias is not clear at this point. Sixty-three taxa of fish have been identified in collections from North Carolina archaeological sites. From inland sites, bottom-feeding taxa such as suckers (Catastomidae) and catfish (Ictaluridae) are particularly common. At coastal sites, both estuarine and marine taxa have been recovered, although many of the marine taxa may have been obtained in estuarine or near-shore habitats.

Amphibians and Reptiles

Amphibians and reptiles probably contributed relatively little to the diet of the prehistoric inhabitants of North Carolina, although they have been recovered from sites in all regions. Twelve taxa of amphibians and thirty-two taxa of reptiles have been identified in collections from North Carolina archaeological sites. Species that were probably of some economic importance were the alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and various species of turtle (particularly the terrestrial box turtle [Terrapene carolina], the aquatic snapping turtle [Chelydra serpentina], soft-shell turtles [Trionyx sp.], and pond turtles [Chrysemys sp. and Pseudemys sp.]). Along the coast, marine turtles (Caretta caretta) and the diamond-backed terrapin (Malachemys terrapin) may have been important parts of the diet. Some amphibians and reptiles may have been important for other reasons not related to their use as foods. It has been suggested that large numbers of frog/toad remains found at some sites in the Mountains region may be the result of their use. Other taxa that may have had some importance might include the poisonous snakes of the family Crotalidae. However, many amphibians and reptiles that have been recovered from archaeological deposits are probably the result of the accidental inclusion of commensal species into the archaeological record. This is particularly true for snakes and lizards, and is probably true for many of the frogs and toads.

Birds

Thirty-nine taxa of birds have been identified in collections from North Carolina archaeological sites. Many of these were of economic importance. Among these are the various species of migratory waterfowl (ducks [Anserinae and Aythyinae] and geese such as the snow goose [Chen caerulescens]), the turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), and the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), all species that could be obtained in large numbers. Other species may have also contributed to the diet on a regular basis. Still other species, were probably used for non-subsistence purposes, particularly as sources of feathers. Among these might have been large wading birds such as members of the heron family (Ardeidae) and colorful passerines. Raptors such as hawks, eagles, and owls may also have had importance other than as food sources.

One domesticated bird, the Old World chicken (Gallus gallus), has been identified in archaeological context.

Mammals

Forty-nine taxa of mammals have been identified in collections from North Carolina archaeological sites. Many of these were of economic importance. Economically important species include members of the deer family (elk [Cervus canadensis] and white-tailed deer [Odocoileus virginianus]), rodents (beaver [Castor canadensis], woodchuck [Marmota monax], muskrat [Ondatra zibethica], and squirrels [Sciurus sp.]), rabbits (Sylvilagus sp.), the opossum (Didelphis marsupialis), the raccoon (Procyon lotor), and the black bear (Ursus americanus), all of which were used as food sources. Other economically important species provided skins (e.g., many of carnivores such as the wolf [Canis lupus], the puma [Felis concolor], the bobcat [Lynx rufus], the otter [Lutra canadensis], mink/weasel [Mustela sp.], and fox [Urocyon cinereoargenteus]). Species that contributed food also provided hides as well.

Three domesitcated mammals have been identified from archaeological sites in North Carolina. One is the domesticated dog (Canis familiaris). The other two species were domesticated in the Old World and introduced to North Carolina by early European colonists. These species are the cow (Bos taurus) and the pig (Sus scrofa).

Some of the taxa that have been identified in archaeological deposits represent commensal species whose presence in the archaeological record are probably the result of accidental incorporation as a result of their presence in the prehistoric communities. Among these are probably forms such as shrews (Blarina sp.), rats and mice (families Cricetidae and Muridae), and voles (Microtus sp.).

Click here to examine the zooarchaeological data.

Patterning in Subsistence Remains
from North Carolina Archaeological Sites

We are limited in our ability to come to secure conclusions about patterning in prehistoric subsistence practices in North Carolina by the currently available data. A brief examination of those data reveals numerous gaps--time periods and geographic regions that are not well sampled. Those gaps restrict our ability to make large-scale regional and temporal syntheses. The gaps also point to research that needs to be done in order for us to be able to address important questions about prehsitoric subsistence practices in North Carolina. They should serve to focus our attention.

This is not to say that we cannot see patterns in the available data. Particularly at the regional level, and within certain time periods, we have good databases. These databases do allow us to talk in meaningful terms about prehistoric subsistence in particular regions and at specific times and how those patterns changed over time. Several projects in the Coastal Region and the northern Piedmont have yielded excellent data relating to prehistoric subsistence economies during the Late Woodland and Protohistoric periods.

It is not our purpose here to present detailed analyses of the patterning of subsistence remains in North Carolina. Rather, we simply point to several robust patterns that are readily discernible in the data.

Click here to view data on the distribution of analyzed collections by geographic region.

Regional Patterning in Archaeobotanical Remains

There is little evidence of regional patterning in the presence-absence data on plant taxa. What patterning there does appear to be seems to reflect either the distribution of the plant taxa themselves or the distribution of analyzed collections.

Crops

Looking at the remains of cultivated plants, it is evident that idigenous crops were important in all three regions of the state. Six taxa have been identified in collections from the Coastal region, eight taxa from the Piedmont region, and eight taxa from the Mountain region. At a gross level, there do not appear to be any significant differences among the regions. The introduced New World crops (corn and bean) are also found in all three regions. The two Old World crops (peach and watermelon) have been reported only from collections in the Piedmont region, although this is undoubtedly a reflection of the distribution of analyzed post-Contact contexts rather than a pattern of use by native peoples.

Nuts

Hickory nuts and acorns, the two most important nuts in prehistoric diets in eastern North American were also utilized in all three regions of the state, as were members of the walnut genus, Juglans. Several species have been identified only in collections from the Mountain region. These include black walnut (Juglans nigra), chestnut (Castanea dentata), and beech (Fagus grandifolia). This pattern may follow the distribution of those taxa. Hazelnut (Corylus sp.) has been found in the Piedmont and Mountain regions, but not in the Coastal region. Pecan (Carya illinoensis) has been found only in the Piedmont region. Again, these patterns would appear to follow the distribution of the plants themselves rather than culturally-derived differences in subsistence patterns.

Fruits

Of the 17 taxa of fruits that have been identified, 15 have been identified in collections from Piedmont sites (and the two taxa that were are broad categories that include taxa that have been identified in Piedmont collections). Only four taxa of fruits have been identified in collections from the Coastal area, and only seven in collections from the Mountain region. Again, we would hesitate to point to anything beyond the differences in the scale of archaeobotanical analyses in the three regions to account for this patterning. Grape (Vitis sp.), maypop (Passiflora incarnata), and sumac (Rhus sp) have been recovered from all three regions. Bramble (Rubus sp.), plum/cherry (Prunus sp.), and persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) have been recovered from sites in the Piedmont and Mountain regions but not from the Coastal region.

Click here to view data on the distribution of archaeobotanical remains by geographic region.

Regional Patterning in Zooarchaeological Remains

Invertebrates

Not surprisingly, nearly all invertebrate taxa identified in archaeological collections are from sites in the the Coastal region. The only exceptions are freshwater mussels of the family Cambaridae (recovered from sites in the Piedmont and Mountain regions) and the genus Elliptio (recovered from all three regions), freshwater snails of the genus Prosobranchiata (recovered from the Mountain region) and terrestrial snails (Pulmonata) (recovered from the Coastal and Mountain regions).

Fish

Fish are also better represented in the collections from the Coast. Again, this is not surprising. Among the species that have been recovered only from coastal sites are some surprises, however. These include sturgeon (Acipenser sp.), which could also be expected in Piedmont sites as it is an anadromous species, and catfish of the genus Amiurus (white catfish, yellow catfish, brown bullhead). Several taxa have been recovered from sites in both the Coast and Piedmont regions. These include bowfin (Amia calva), American eel (Anguilla rostrata), carp (Cyprinidae), longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus), sunfish (Lepomis sp.), redhorse (Moxostoma sp.), and yellow perch (Perca flavescens). From the Piedmont region, several species of fish have been identified that we might also expect to see in collections from the Coast. These include the anadromous shad (Alosa sp. and Dorosoma sp.) and the alligator gar (Lepisosteus spatula). buffalo fish (Ictiobus sp.), , darters (Perciformes). Suckers (family Catostomidae) have been recovered from sites in both the Piedmont and Mountain regions. Taxa that have been found only in the Mountain region include the northern hog sucker (Hipentelium nigricans), minnow (Notropis sp.), and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). Finally, catfish (Ictalurus sp.) have been recovered from sites in all three regions of the state.

Reptiles

Economically important taxa of reptiles have been recovered from sites in all three regions. In particular, snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), pond turtles (Chrysemys sp.), and box turtle (Terrapene carolina) have been recovered from sites in all three regions. Taxa that have been recovered only from the Coast region include alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), Atlantic loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), and diamond-back terrapin (Malachemys terrapin). The restriction of these taxa to the coast would appear to be a reflection of their natural distribution. Several species of freshwater turtles (musk and mud turtles [Kinosternon sp. and Sternotherus oderatus] and cooters and sliders [Pseudemys sp.]) have been found in sites in the Coast and Piedmont regions. The soft-shelled turtle (Trionyx sp.) has been found only in the Piedmont.

There are relatively more snakes in collections from Coast and Mountain region sites. For the Coastal sites, this may be the result of taphonomic differences, with the delicated bones of snakes being better preserved in alkaline shell middens than in the acidic soils of the Piedmont. However, this does not explain the numbers of snakes that have been recovered from the Mountain region.

Birds

Bird taxa are also distributed largely as the species are found in the wild. The economically important wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) has been found in sites from all regions of the state. In addition to several species of shore birds, a number of species of ducks and geese have been recovered from Coastal sites. These include species of dabbling ducks (green-winged teal [Anas crecca], blue-winged teal[Anas discors], mallard/black duck [Anas platyrhynchos/rubripes]), herons (Ardeidae), diving ducks (redhead [Aytha americana] and canvasback [Aytha valisineria]), and the snow goose (Chen caerulescens). It seems probable that these species were more common and easily procured along the coast during migration along the Atlantic flyway. The diving lesser scaup duck (Aytha affinis), the bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus), and the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) have been recovered from sites in the Coast and Piedmont regions. Finally, the Old World domestic chicken (Gallus gallus) has been found on the Coast.

Mammals

Several economically important mammals, including those that are usually considered to be the most important sources of meat obtained from terrestrial animals, are found on sites in all three regions of the state. These include beaver (Castor canadensis), opossum (Didelphis marsupialis), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), fox squirrel (Sciurus niger), eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus), and black bear (Ursus americanus). Also found in all three regions are the bobcat (Lynx rufus) and the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), two adaptable and widespread carnivores. Although they were probably not major sources of food, these two species were probably exploited for their skins on a regular basis.

Several species have been found only on sites in the Coast region. These include the otter (Lutra canadensis), the marsh rice rat (Oryzomys palustris), and the marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris). The latter two may have been food sources, while the otter was probably exploited for its fur. Remains of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) have also been found only in the Coast region (although the dog was undoubtedly present in all three regions and some of the unidentified canid remains from Piedmont sites may be dog). In part this is probably due to the practice of intential burial of dogs that is seen at coastal sites. Two Old World domesticated species--the cow (Bos taurus) and the pig (Sus scrofa)--have been found on coastal sites but not elsewhere. Finally, the rat (Rattus sp.)

The elk (Cervus canadensis) has been recovered only in the Piedmont region, although it could also be expected in the Mountain region. The elk was probably not common in Late Prehistoric North Carolina. Its limited presence in the archaeological record may be partially the result of the few analyzed collections from the Mountain region and the absence of collections from the earliest time periods.

The puma (Felis concolor) and the woodchuck (Marmota monax) have been recovered from sites in the Piedmont and Mountain regions, but not from sites in the Coast region. This may reflect the distribution of these two species.

Click here to view data on the distribution of zooarchaeological remains by geographic region.

Chronological Patterning in Subsistence Remains

As noted above, the sites from which we have analyzed archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological collections are concentrated in the recent end of the chronological sequence. We have no subsistence data from the Paleoindian or Early Archaic periods. We have only one Middle Archaic component and one Late Archaic component that have yielded subsistence data. For the Early Woodland, the picture is only marginally better; we have data from four components. It is not until we reach the Middle Woodland that we begin to see appreciable numbers of components. We have archaeobotanical data from 5 Middle Woodland components and zooarchaeological data from 18 Middle Woodland components.

Click here to view information on the chronological position of the sites and components from which subsistence remains have been recovered.

Chronological Patterning in Archaeobotanical Remains

Crops

One indigenous plant known to have been cultivated by the peoples of eastern North America (chenopodium [Chenopodium sp.]) has been recovered from a Late Archaic context in North Carolina. Unfortunately, we cannot say whether the presence of chenopodium seeds at this site reflects cultivation. However, chenopodium seeds have been found on sites from the Late Archaic through the Contact period. The seeds from the Middle Woodland period have been identified as Chenopodium berlandieri, a species that was domesticated in eastern North America. Knotweed (Polygonum sp.) seeds have been consistently recovered from contexts dating to the Late Woodland through the Early Historic period. Little barley (Hordeum pusillum) seeds have been recovered from contexts dating to the Late Woodland, Protohstoric, and Early Historic periods. It seems likely that their absence from Mississippian and Contact period contexts is a result of sampling. Maygrass (Phalaris caroliniana) seeds have also been found in contexts dating to the Late Woodland, Protohistoric, Contact and Early Historic periods. Sumpweed (Iva annua) seeds have been recovered from Middle Woodland, Late Woodland, and Mississippian contexts. Sumpweed seeds from Late Woodland and Mississippian contexts have been identified as Iva annua, var. macrocarpa, the domesticated form of sumpweed. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) has been recovered from contexts dating to the Late Woodland, Protohistoric, and Contact periods. Squash (Cucurbita sp.) was one of the earliest plants to be domesticated in eastern North America. Squash remains have been recovered from contexts dating to the Late Woodland, Mississippian, Protohistoric, Contact, and Early Historic periods. The bottle gourd (Lagenaria vulgaris), another early domesticate, has been found on Mississippian and Contact period sites.

Corn (Zea mays) and the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), the important tropical New World crops appear in North Carolina sites in the Late Woodland and Mississippian periods, and are consistently found in the later periods as well.

Two Old World crops, the peach (Prunus persica) and the watermelon (Citrullus vulgaris), have been recovered from Contact period sites in Piedmont North Carolina. These two species were quickly adopted by native peoples all across the Southeast, probably because they were similar to native species that were already being used or cultivated (e.g., plum [Prunus sp.] and squash [Cucurbita sp.]), and because they grow well in North Carolina.

Indigenous crops are found consistently from contexts dating to the Late Woodland on through Contact, with more scattered remains of a few taxa from earlier times. These data probably reflect the widespread adoption of food production in the Late Woodland in North Carolina. A shift to the intensive cultivation of corn in Mississippian societies may account for the absence of some of the indigenous cultigens in Mississippian contexts.

Nuts

Nuts were used by the peoples of North Carolina from the earliest times through the Early Historic period. The oil-rich members of the hickory/walnut family (Juglandaceae)--hickories (Carya sp.), pecan (Carya illinoensis), black walnut (Juglans nigra), and butternut (Juglans cinerea)-- appear in archaeological contexts from the Middle Archaic on. These taxa provided oil (fat) and protein in abundant and easily storable forms for the people of North Carolina. While we have no data, it would seem safe to assume that earlier Paleoindian and Early Archaic peoples also used members of this family.

Acorns (Quercus sp.) were also an important food source for the native peoples of North Carolina throughout the prehistoric period and on into the Early Historic period. The absence of acorn from the analyzed Middle Archaic collections may be due to differential preservation, acorn shell is much more fragile than hickory shell and is more likely to be destroyed by burning or by mechanical breakage. Unlike the hickories and walnuts, acorns are a source of starches rather than fat. While the presence-absence data here do not show it, in other areas of the Southeast, there appears to have been a shift from the oil-rich hickories to the starchy acorns in later prehistoric times (e.g., the Late Woodland).

Other nut taxa (beech [Fagus grandifolia], chestnut [Castanea dentata], and hazelnut [Corylus sp.]) do not appear to have had the widespread importance that hickory nuts and acorns did. Several factors may account for this: procurement (harvest) costs for scattered trees compared to groves, preservation potential, and value (taste or nutrition).

Fruits

Two taxa of fruits (grape [Vitis sp.] and plum/cherry [Prunus sp.]) appear to have been used by the peoples of North Carolina from earliest times. Several other taxa (bramble [Rubus sp.], hawthorn [Crataegus sp.], maypop [Passiflora incarnata], persimmon [Diospyros virginiana], and sumac [Rhus sp.]) appear with regularity beginning in the Late Woodland. The remaining taxa of fruits appear in contexts scattered through the late prehistoric and early historic periods. Their distribution may be a result of the chronological distribution of analyzed flotation samples or of preservation biases (as many of these taxa have small seeds that are unlikely to survive as well as larger, harder seeds such as those of grape, plum, and persimmon).

Click here to view information on the chronological patterning of archaeobotanical remains that have been recovered from North Carolina sites.

Chronological Patterning in Zooarchaeological Remains

Invertebrates

The majority of invertebrates identified from archaeological contexts come, not surprisingly, from sites in the Coast region. Consequently, most taxa have been recovered only from Middle and Late Woodland contexts (those that have yielded the most subsistence data from coastal sites).

The limited inventory of animal taxa recovered from Early Woodland contexts include only three taxa of invertebrates: scallops (Aequipecten sp.), freshwater mussel (Elliptio sp.) and clam (Mercenaria mercenaria). All of these taxa have also been recovered from Middle Woodland and Late Woodland contexts.

Taxa found exclusively in Middle Woodland contexts include a number of potentially important taxa. These include two species of whelk (the chaneled whelk [Busycon canaliculatum] and the knobbed whelk [B. carica]) and the giant Atlantic cockle (Dinocardium robustum). Most taxa of invertebrates have been recovered from both Middle Woodland and Late Woodland contexts. These include the lightning whelk (Busycon contrarium), venus clam (Chione sp.), oyster (Crassostrea virginia), tulip (Fasciolaria sp.), periwinkle (Littorina irrorata), ribbed mussel (Modiolus sp.), and the ponderous ark (Noetia ponderosa).

Fish

Identified fish remains are derived primarily from Late Woodland contexts. Nearly all taxa have been found in Late Woodland period sites, and most have not been recovered from earlier or later contexts.

Three taxa have been recoverd from Early Woodland contexts: catfish (Ictalurus sp.), spot (Leiostomus xanthurus), and longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus). These common taxa are also found in Middle Woodland and Late Woodland contexts, and catfish have been found in Mississippian, Protohistoric, and Contact period contexts.

Several taxa have been recovered only from Middle Woodland contexts. These include needlefish (Belonidx sp.), pigfish (Orthopristis chysoptera), and flounder (Paralichthyes sp.). Several other taxa appear in both Middle and Late Woodland contexts: striped burrfish (Chilomycterus schoepfi), sea trout (Cynoscion sp.), white catfish (Ictalurus catus), pinfish (Lagodon rhombiodes), and black drum (Pogonias cromis).

Reptiles

In general, reptiles are most frequent in Late Woodland contexts, although this may simply reflect the intensity of investigation of Late Woodland contexts. Among the taxa of reptiles that appear to have been important food resources, there appears to be relatively little chronological patterning that we can discern. Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) and box turtles (Terrapene carolina) are consistently found from the Early Woodland through Contact, and pond turtles (Chrysemys sp.) and diamond-back terrapins (Malachemys terrapin) have been recovered from contexts dating to the Middle and Late Woodland and Mississippian periods.. Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and Atlantic loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) have been recovered only from Late Woodland contexts in the Coast region.

Birds

We have no identified remains of birds from contexts older than the Middle Woodland period, and we have only four taxa that have been identified in Middle Woodland contexts: unidentified duck (Anas sp.), unidentified bird (Aves), passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), and turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). All have been identified from later time periods as well.

Late Woodland contexts have yielded nearly all of the avian taxa thus far identified. This is not surprising given the fact that Late Woodland sites of the Coast and Piedmont regions are among the best studied contexts we have. Taxa identified in Late Woodland contexts include all economically important taxa: migratory waterfowl, bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus), passenger pigeon, and turkey. The remains of the Old World chicken (Gallus gallus) have also been recovered from a Late Woodland context in the Coast region.

We have relatively few birds identified from Mississippian contexts. The identified taxa include the turkey, but surprisingly not migratory waterfowl or the passenger pigeon. Birds are also poorly represented in Protohistoric and Contact period sites from the Piedmont region. One species of duck (the lesser scaup [Aytha affinis]), the passenger pigeon, turkey, flicker (Colaptes auratus), and cardinal (Richmondena cardinalis) have been identified from late sites in the Piedmont.

Mammals

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), opossum (Didelphis marsupialis), squirrels (Sciurus sp.), and rabbits (Sylvilagus sp.) were used by the inhabitants of North Carolina from the earliest times (all appear in the earliest analyzed faunal collections, which date to the Middle Archaic, and continue to appear through Contact). Raccoon (Procyon lotor), beaver (Castor canadensis), woodchuck (Marmota monax), and gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) first appear in Middle Woodland contexts, and continue to be used from that point on. Black bear (Ursus americanus), elk (Cervus canadensis), and puma (Felis concolor) appear in the archaeological record in the Late Woodland.

Click here to view information on the chronological patterning of zooarchaeological remains that have been recovered from North Carolina sites.

References

Check here to view the list of references containing subsistence data on North Carolina archaeological sites.

The Project Databases

We entered the data we gathered during the course of this project into a set of linked (relational) database files using the PARADOX database manager. We then used those database files to generate the tables and reports found on the pages linked to this home page. In addition to the data reported here, we recorded additional data about the sites, components, and contexts from which the analyzed remains were recovered. These data are contained in the database files. Descriptions of the structures of these database files and the variable fields they contain are presented at the following link.

Click here to view the structures of the project databases.

To the North Carolina Archaeology Homepage

Comments and suggestions concerning the North Carolina Archaeology home pages can be emailed to Mark A. Mathis, Office of State Archaeology, at mmathis@ncsl.dcr.state.nc.us

Comments or questions concerning North Carolina archaeology, or reports of sites and artifacts, can be sent via email to archaeology@ncsl.dcr.state.nc.us or snailmail to:

Office of State Archaeology
109 East Jones Street
Raleigh, NC 27601-2801
919/733-7342
Fax: 919/715-2671

Created by John F. Scarry and C. Margaret Scarry
Revised October 14, 1997