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The Cultural Dynamics of Shell-Matrix Sites

Mirjana Roksandic

Publication Year: 2014

The excavation of shell middens and mounds is an important source of information regarding past human diet, settlement, technology, and paleoenvironments. The contributors to this book introduce new ways to study shell-matrix sites, ranging from the geochemical analysis of shellfish to the interpretation of human remains buried within. Drawing upon examples from around the world, this is one of the only books to offer a global perspective on the archaeology of shell-matrix sites.

“A substantial contribution to the literature on the subject and . . . essential reading for archaeologists and others who work on this type of site.”—Barbara Voorhies, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of Coastal Collectors in the Holocene: The Chantuto People of Southwest Mexico

Published by: University of New Mexico Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-xii

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Introduction: Cultural Dynamics of Shell-Matrix Sites: Diverse Perspectives on Biological Remains from Shell Mounds and Shell Middens

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pp. xiii-xvi

Shellsh ll a particular niche in subsistence economies; however, the reasons why people gather and consume shellsh are contingent on environmental and historical circumstances and are sanctioned by cultural practices. Cheryl Claassen (1991) challenged “normative thinking...

Part I: Typology and Function

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1. Factors Influencing the Formation of Large Shell Mounds in California’s Santa Barbara Channel Region

Todd J. Braje, Jon M. Erlandson, and Torben C. Rick

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pp. 1-10

From San Francisco Bay to the Santa Barbara Channel, the California coast is well known for its large prehistoric shell middens and mounds created by sedentary hunter-gatherer populations who harvested rich marine, estuarine, and terrestrial habitats. Except for the very large shell mounds that...

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2. The Key Marco Site, a Planned Shell Mound Community on the Southwest Florida Coast

Randolph J. Widmer

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pp. 11-20

The Key Marco site is a large, 13.5.-hectare planned village site on the southwest Florida coast, intentionally constructed from marine shell.Th e site has 61 mounds with a volume of over 240,000 cubic meters of shell, including a distinct elite residential precinct with  house mounds and a ceremonial precinct containing six temple mounds...

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3. Ringed Shell Features of the Southeast United States: Architecture and Midden

Michael Russo

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pp. 21-40

Late Archaic (3000–1000 BC [5000–3000 BP]) shell rings are found along the coast from South Carolina to Mississippi, while Woodland (500 BC–AD 1000 [ 2500–1000 BP]) ring middens are best known along the northwest Florida coast. Though their occupations were widely separated in

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4. Shell Rings of the Lower Atlantic Coast of the United States: Defining Function by Contrasting Details, with Reference to Ecuador, Columbia, and Japan

Rebecca Saunders

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pp. 41-56

There are over 40 known Archaic period (10,000–2500 BP) shell-ring sites along the lower Atlantic coast (Figure 4.1). Unequivocal radiocarbon dates indicate that these Archaic rings were constructed in the Late Archaic period, between 5000 and 3400 cal BP. Archaic-period...

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5. Late Holocene Coastal Economies and the Anadara granosa–Dominated Shell Mounds of Northern Australia: Evidence from Blue Mud Bay, Northeast Arnhem Land

Patrick A. Faulkner

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pp. 57-74

Large shell mounds dominated by the sand/mudat bivalve Anadara granosa are prominent features across much of the north Australian coast. ere have been numerous explanations proposed for these mounds, ranging from purely economic to ceremonial, but all largely...

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6. Shell Middens in Western Algarve (Southern Portugal) during the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic: Functionality, Subsistence, and Material Culture

Maria João Valente, Rebecca Dean, and António Faustino Carvalho

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pp. 75-90

During the past decade, new research has been conducted on several shell midden sites in western Algarve (southern Portugal), dated from the Preboreal to the early Atlantic climatic periods (ca. 10,400–7400 cal BP or 9400–5400 cal BC). New sites (four shell middens at Barranco...

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7. Were Sambaqui People Buried in the Trash?: Archaeology, Physical Anthropology, and the Evolution of the Interpretation of Brazilian Shell Mounds

Maria Dulce Gaspar, Daniela Klokler, and Paulo DeBlasis

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pp. 91-100

Human remains have repeatedly been described in the studies of shell mounds (or sambaquis) of the Brazilian coast since the first publications in the 19th century. However, they were rarely considered a decisive feature in understanding this type of site. is chapter examines the...

Part II: People and Burials

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8. Cultural Formation Processes of the Bioarchaeological Record of a Brazilian Shell Mound

Mercedes Okumura and Sabine Eggers

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pp. 103-112

Formation processes are the natural and cultural processes that make up the archaeological record. Whereas natural formation processes are the environmental factors that influence the survival of the archaeological evidence, cultural formation processes include the accidental or deliberate...

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9. The Skeletal Assemblage and Burial Ritual at the Site of Cabeço da Amoreira: The 1960s Excavations by Veiga Ferreira and Roche

Mirjana Roksandic and Mary Jackes

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pp. 113-130

Skeletal remains from the valley of Muge figure prominently in recent discussions on the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition in Europe and the role Mesolithic substrate populations played in the process of Neolithisation. The largest, relatively flood-free shell middens of the Muge valley...

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10. New Photographic Evidence on the 1954 Excavations at Moita do Sebastião, Muge, Portugal

Mary Jackes, Pedro Alvim, José Antonio Anacleto, and Mirjana Roksandic

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pp. 131-150

Four enlargements of previously unpublished photographs provide a great deal of additional information on a Muge Mesolithic site. We show that these images are of Moita do Sebastião and were taken during the 1954 field season...

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11. A Ritually Constructed Shell Mound: Feasting at the Jabuticabeira II Site

Daniela Klokler

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pp. 151-162

New research has articulated the interpretation of large shell mounds as the result of centuries of repetitive rituals involving death and social memory. Zooarchaeological analysis of samples from a Brazilian shell mound site indicates...

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12. Sambaqui People, the Shell Mound Builders of Brazil: A Challenge for Paleodemographers

Sheila Mendonça de Souza

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pp. 163-172

Paleodemographic analysis of the prehistoric inhabitants of coastal Brazil is challenging as only a small proportion of their sites have been excavated. Based on archaeological evidence, Brazilian shell mounds were generally thought...

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13. Do Cultural Markers Reflect Biological Affinities?: A Test Using Prehistoric Ceramist and Non-Ceramist Groups from Coastal Brazil

Mercedes Okumura

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pp. 173-188

Archaeologists have been proposing models about the prehistoric settlement of the Brazilian coast based on cultural di­fferences and/or innovations observed in the archaeological record. However, are cultural changes associated with distinct biological groups? ...

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14. General Considerations about the Bioarchaeological Contexts in Patagonian Coast Shell Middens

Jorge A. Suby and Ricardo A. Guichón

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pp. 189-196

One of the most relevant indicators of maritime resource consumption by past human populations in Southern Patagonia is the formation of shell middens of anthropogenic origin. Their composition and relationship with subsistence strategies have motivated extensive investigations, ...

Part III: Subsistence and Ecology

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15. Shell Middens, Vertebrate Fauna, and Northwest Coast Subsistence: Intensification and Generalization of Prehistoric Northwest Coast Economies

Trevor J. Orchard and Terence N. Clark

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pp. 199-212

Recent use of multidimensional scaling (MDS) has demonstrated the applicability of the technique to the analysis and interpretation of zooarchaeological faunal assemblages. Building on these previous results, we apply...

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16. The Riverine Sambaqui: Zooarchaeological Studies of Inland Brazilian Shell Mounds

Levy Figuti and Claudia Plens

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pp. 213-222

Between 8000 to 1000 BP, Archaic sher-gatherers inhabited large areas of the Brazilian coast and built numerous shell mounds, the sambaquis. Those mounds can be more than 100 meters in length and 5 meters in height, and are made of bivalve marine shells. In the highland rainforest...

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17. Shellfish and Resource Sustainability on the Central Northwest Coast of North America

Phoebe Daniels

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pp. 223-240

The intensication of subsistence resources is critical to many explanations of the development of semi-sedentary complex cultures on the Northwest Coast of North America. In order to support increasingly sedentary populations...

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18. Biogeochemical Signatures of Marine and Estuarine Bivalves: Implications for Interpreting Seasonality at Shell Midden Sites Using High-Resolution Stable Isotope Sclerochronology

Meghan Burchell, Nadine Hallmann, Bernd R. Schöne, Aubrey Cannon, and Henry P. Schwarcz

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pp. 241-250

The chemical and biological analyses of archaeological shells from shell midden sites can reveal important information regarding local ecology, environmental and climatic changes, seasonality, and the intensity of shellsh gathering. Most archaeological studies that seek to identify...

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19. Mesolithic and Neolithic Shell Middens in Western Scotland: A Comparative Analysis of Shellfish Exploitation Patterns

Catriona Pickard and Clive Bonsall

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pp. 251-266

Shell midden sites are a common feature of the west Scottish Mesolithic and Neolithic and are distributed along mainland coasts and several of the Inner Hebridean Islands. is chapter provides an overview of the shellfishing practices of coastal foragers in the region...

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20. Ethnoarchaeology and Residue Analysis in Fisher-Hunter-Gatherer Sites: A Pilot Study

Ivan Briz i Godino, Débora Zurro, Myrian Álvarez, and Marco Madella

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pp. 267-278

is chapter demonstrates exploratory research carried out in the shell midden context of Lanashuaia from the Beagle Channel (Tierra del Fuego, Argentina), a dwelling of the Yamana hunter-fisher-gatherer group. e aim of this pilot...

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21. Micro-Remains Trapped in Dental Calculus Reveal Plants Consumed by Brazilian Shell Mound Builders

Célia H. C. Boyadjian and Sabine Eggers

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pp. 279-288

The use of plants by Brazilian shell mound populations is still very unclear. Indirect evidence of plant consumption in prehistoric Brazil has revealed that most shell mound groups show low caries rates, while some show rates compatible with frequent cariogenic food intake...

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22: Landscape and Use of Plants by Southern and Southeastern Brazilian Shell Mound Builders

Rita Scheel-Ybert

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pp. 289-300

Sambaquis, Brazilian shell mounds, are among the best studied sites in the country. While recent research is drastically changing our views about this society, plant use and consumption still remain largely underestimated. Recent archaeobotanical research, however, is gradually changing...


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pp. 301-354


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pp. 355-358


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pp. 359-368

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826354570
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826354563

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 881366436
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Cultural Dynamics of Shell-Matrix Sites

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Subject Headings

  • Kitchen-middens -- Analysis.
  • Kitchen-middens -- Social aspects.
  • Fish remains (Archaeology).
  • Human remains (Archaeology).
  • Excavations (Archaeology).
  • Social archaelogy.
  • Coastal archaeology.
  • Ethnoarchaeology.
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