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Early Agricultural Diet in Eastern North America: Evidence from Two Kentucky Rockshelters

Kristen J. Gremillion
American Antiquity
Vol. 61, No. 3 (Jul., 1996), pp. 520-536
DOI: 10.2307/281838
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/281838
Page Count: 17
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Early Agricultural Diet in Eastern North America: Evidence from Two Kentucky Rockshelters
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Abstract

Systematic quantitative analysis of desiccated human paleofeces from two rockshelters in eastern Kentucky has yielded new evidence for early agricultural diet in eastern North America. Results indicate that native cultigens (including sumpweed, sunflower, and chenopod) were sometimes significant dietary constituents as early as ca. 1000 B.C., at least a millennium before agricultural economies became widespread across the region. However, variability in the quantity and frequency of cultigen remains suggests a dietary role that was somewhat limited compared to the practices of later Woodland period farmers. The predictions of foraging theory suggest that the utilization of cultigens would have been most advantageous in spring and summer (when many other foods were scarce) or in years of poor production by nut-bearing trees. The causal link between food storage and the development of food production in eastern Kentucky receives some empirical support and warrants further investigation.

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