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Fishing in Prehistoric Wyoming

Phillips, Amy
Abstract
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Recorded history of human habitation in Wyoming dates back about 13,000 years. Wyoming prehistory is characterized by changes in subsistence practices as marked by changes in material culture, such as projectile points. Such changes in material culture reflect temporally corresponding changes in subsistence practices and create a chronology for Wyoming’s inhabitants prior to the arrival of European peoples. Despite the notable emphasis commonly placed on subsistence in archeological thought thereabout, little research on prehistoric fishing within the archaeological record in Wyoming has been conducted. A search of the University of Wyoming Archaeological Repository database yielded 340 fish bones and 83 net weights from excavated sites throughout the state. These come from a total of 10 sites. While other sites with fish bones are documented in the state, these could not be confirmed on a bone-by-bone basis as fish and were not included. Most fish bones date to the Late Prehistoric era. The influences of fish bone preservation, climate change, and caloric return rates were used to interpret this bias. Different fish bones preserve better in either acidic or alkaline soils. Comparative preservation rates of head and vertebral bone fragments versus rib bones from sites throughout Wyoming suggest that the bones were being consumed. The Medieval Warming Period during the Late Prehistoric likely caused a migration of people and animal to higher altitudes. The decrease in large, grazing animals during this time rendered fish, difficult to obtain, but imbued with high caloric return rates, an advantageous form of subsistence as per the diet breadth model (DBM).
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University of Wyoming. Libraries
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Keywords
fishing , archaeology , Wyoming , Medieval Warming Period , net weights , fish bones , Late Prehistoric , prehistoric fishing , diet breadth model
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