Changes in Patterns of Seneca Faunal Exploitation in Western New York State During the Late Woodland and Early Contact Periods, 1540-1680
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Apart from scattered reports on faunal assemblages and analyses in gray literature, little sustained research has been done into Iroquoian faunal exploitation and the role of animals in the maintenance of social and cultural organization in New York State during the Late Woodland and Early Contact Periods. This state of affairs is illustrated by the fact that the most recent dissertation on the zooarchaeology of this period was completed in 1995. Consequently, this project offers a prime opportunity to examine trends in faunal exploitation in Western New York State among the Seneca, the most populous and powerful of the Five Nations Iroquois. This project synthesizes faunal data from 12 prehistoric and Contact Period Seneca village and hamlet sites located in Monroe, Livingston, and Ontario Counties in the possession of the Rochester Museum and Science Center in Rochester, New York. This research is combined with ethnographic and ethnoarchaeological evidence to examine patterns of Seneca faunal exploitation during the period 1540-1680. Environmental change, human and faunal demographic pressures/collapses, and social reorganization due to warfare are presented as possible hypotheses influencing faunal patterning. It was found that a significant decrease in deer and medium mammals during periods when warfare between the Seneca and their enemies was followed by a concurrent increase in smaller animal species such as small mammals and rodents, bivalves, fish, and birds. These data do not strongly support either environmental change or human and demographic change, but instead a shift in faunal procurement strategies by the Seneca in the absence of male hunters due to the extended periods of warfare in which the Seneca and Iroquois engaged in during the seventeenth century. These patterns are visible in other geographic contexts in the Northeastern, Midwestern, and Southwestern United States where sustained levels of warfare were known to occur. However, deer and other large mammals such as bear and elk still make up a considerable portion of the assemblages during the periods during which warfare was known to be highest. These may be due to other environmental and social factors such as the use of captive labor in hunting, a renewed emphasis on horticulture and gathering of wild resources, shifts in hunting grounds, as well as the hunting of deer as a means to create and maintain social identity during times of hardship. The possible consequences of these factors as reflected by the zooarchaeological data are considered. Additional research avenues using these data are presented in the conclusion of this dissertation. This research will contribute to current understandings of variations in Iroquoian faunal exploitation due to environmental and social, and cultural changes, fields of research which have been underexplored in New York State at this point in time.