The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Using stable isotopes to ascertain paleo-foraging strategies through the study of woodland bison behavior


1Anthropology, University of Cincinnati, 2Anthropology, Geology, University of Cincinnati

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Big Bone Lick State Park (BBL) in the Ohio River Valley is often considered the birthplace of American paleontology. The site is the final resting place for a number of extinct or locally extirpated large mammals. Skeletal remains from eastern woodland bison, Bison bison, are abundantly deposited in the creek bed. Past investigations have indicated that the presence of bison at this site is the result of a single kill event by humans dating approximately 530 years ago. This time is roughly equivalent to the Fort Ancient culture. The hunting decisions of the people who organized this kill event are important for understanding the impact of human activity on woodland bison ecology, and the role of bison in Fort Ancient subsistence strategies. The purpose of this project is to determine the extent of migration, nutrition, and age of woodland bison using isotopic analysis of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, strontium, and comparative dating methods. This information can be used to better understand the foraging behavior of Fort Ancient People. Using this suite of methods we have examined the extent of the BBL bison habitat, and gathered information on their health and diet. We find that BBL bison had a mixed browse and grass diet, and relatively restricted range along Ohio River Valley waterways. It is therefore likely that bison was a relatively stable and abundant local food resource for Fort Ancient people.

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