An inter-site comparison of enamel hypoplasia in bison: implications for paleoecology and modeling Late Plains Archaic subsistence

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Charles P. Egeland, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Bison bison mandibular molars from the Late Plains Archaic kill/butchery sites of Buffalo Creek (Wyoming) and Kaplan-Hoover (Colorado) exhibit significant frequencies of dental enamel hypoplasia (DEH), a defect believed to reflect information about physiological status of individual animals. This study provides a methodology to estimate the ontogenetic and seasonal timing of DEH formation in bison dentition. Integration of these estimates with data from bison life history and grassland ecology allows inferences on age- and season-specific factors exacerbating periodic physiological declines that were recorded in the form of enamel hypoplasias. Differences between assemblages indicate regional variability in grassland conditions, with data from Buffalo Creek pointing to recurrent drought that reduced forage capacity and contributed to physiological stress in bison over two consecutive years. Seasons of physiological stress reflected in the DEH correspond to each of the three kill events at the locality, suggesting that predictability of bison behavior in this location was a critical factor in influencing the seasonal timing and location of repeated hunting episodes. Unlike Buffalo Creek, timings of stress episodes are not consistent with season of death in the Kaplan-Hoover bison assemblage, suggesting that favorable grassland conditions were the primary factor influencing timing of this large single-kill event in order to provision for the upcoming winter. DEH analysis represents a developing approach in the construction of models addressing key aspects of local grassland and bison ecology as well as offers unique insights into the hunting strategies and subsistence decisions of Late Plains Archaic foragers.

Additional Information

Journal of Archaeological Science 31, 1783-1794.
Language: English
Date: 2004
Enamel hypoplasia, Bison, Great Plains, Late Plains Archaic, Grassland ecology

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