A Chronometric Study of the Relation Between SubsistenceIntensification and Persistent Land Use during the Middle Holocenein the Wyoming Basin, USA

by Dayna M Reale

Institution: University of Cincinnati
Year: 2016
Keywords: Archaeology; Wyoming Basin; Housepit; Persistent Use; Early Archaic
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2123275
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=ucin1470741911


This thesis aims to identify Wyoming Basin housepits in southwest Wyoming as markers for persistently used locales. Persistent use of housepits relates to resource procurement strategies during a time of changing climate and environment. Warm, dry conditions in the early part of the Middle Holocene (7500 – 4500 BP) resulted in a reduction of large-game populations. Housepits facilitated the procurement of plant and small-game resources, which hunter-gatherers relied on heavily until the climate stabilized in the Late Holocene (4500 BP – Present).Decades of excavation data aided in the creation of a database of previously obtained radiocarbon data collected at 80 housepit sites in the Wyoming Basin. The radiocarbon data were recalibrated using the calibration curve for the Northern Hemisphere (IntCal13) in OxCal 4.2.4. These recalibrated dates provide information about frequency and distribution of housepit occupations through time and across a variety of sampled context types (i.e., sites, housepits, features, etc.). Temporal patterns are consistent with current hypotheses that posit population densities increased significantly around the same time as peak housepit use. Alternatively, the peak of calibrated date frequency associated with housepit use could be the result of a build-up of material from the persistent use of locales, not increasing human populations. In this thesis, I suggest that Early Archaic housepits represent a unique adaptation of hunter-gatherers to an environment in flux, between 8500 and 3700 years BP. The return of favorable climatic conditions heralded the gradual return of big game, like bison. As game populations slowly increased, hunter-gatherers had the best of both worlds: abundant reliable and predictable plant and small-game resources, and an ever-growing population of large-game animals. However, this `Sweet Spot’ in time could not last forever. By 5800 BP, game herds slowly began to increase, providing better subsistence opportunities for hunter-gatherers. However, growing large game populations also increased stress on the carrying capacity for plant resources. Therefore, housepits were eventually abandoned and settlement and subsistence strategies changed yet again, focusing on higher residential mobility and large-game hunting in the Late Archaic (3700 – 1800 BP). Advisors/Committee Members: Sullivan, Alan (Committee Chair).