Sampling Fish Bones: A Consideration of the Importance of Screen Size and Disposal Context in the North Pacific

Megan A. Partlow

Abstract

Archaeologists have long debated the importance of salmon resources in the development of large, semisedentary winter villages and ranked societies among native peoples of the eastern North Pacific. For the most part, this debate has occurred without adequately sampled fish assemblages. Two key types of faunal data useful in testing for salmon intensification in the archaeological record are taxonomic proportions data and skeletal parts data. Both types of data require systematic collection and are affected by screen size. In addition, disposal context (e.g., house floor versus exterior midden) can seriously affect taxonomic proportions data. At Settlement Point, a Koniag tradition site from Afognak Island, Alaska, salmon bone recovery was found to vary significantly by screen-size and disposal context. Systematic screening and house floor sampling (when possible) are recommended in generating fish bone assemblages adequate to evaluate models of the importance of salmon in prehistoric subsistence systems of the northeastern Pacific.

  • Megan A. Partlow, Department of Anthropology, Central Washington University, 400 E. University Way, Ellensburg, Washington 98926-7544

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