Abstracts of Collections Research

Abstract from Conrad, Cyler, Emily Lena Jones, Seth D. Newsome and Douglas W. Schwartz. (in preparation). Egg Use and Turkey Husbandry at Arroyo Hondo Pueblo (LA 12), New Mexico. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

The Prehistoric Use of Turkeys at Arroyo Hondo Pueblo Grant Duration: January 2015-May 2015  

  Cyler Norman Conrad1  

  June 30, 2015  

When Arroyo Hondo Pueblo was occupied (~1315-1410 C.E.), turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) comprised a significant component of Puebloan society. Turkey pens lined several plazas at the Pueblo, some of which may have held up to 60 birds. Bone and eggshell refuse in rooms and plazas indicate that they were eaten and bred regularly, and human burials with turkey feather textiles suggest that these birds played an important cultural role. While this evidence provides several insights into the daily life of Puebloan peoples, several questions remain unanswered for the daily life of turkeys and their relationship with humans.   

With publication of the Arroyo Hondo Archaeological Series there was clear evidence that the Pueblo saw periods of high human population densities, trade throughout the Southwest, environmental stress, and intervals of abandonment, to name a few. Yet, as Lang and Harris describe (1984), aspects of the use and role of turkeys remained a mystery. For example, were the turkeys at Arroyo Hondo allowed to forage in the natural environment, as the ethnographic record suggests, or were they fed maize and kept in pens within the Pueblo during their lifetime? Deposits of eggshells recovered from the site suggested that turkeys were bred and raised within the Pueblo, but could eggs have been collected in the wild and brought into the site?   This research project used scanning electron microscopy and stable isotope analysis of turkey eggshells and bones to more fully understand the processes of turkey husbandry at Arroyo Hondo. Under the guidance of my advisers, Emily L. Jones, Seth D. Newsome and Sherry Nelson, I identified the processes of turkey egg use at the site by ageing eggshell fragments using scanning electron microscopy. I also used stable isotope analysis of turkey bone collagen to explore how turkeys were fed during the site occupation. To document any temporal change that occurred, I selected turkey egg and bone samples that spanned the entire occupation of the site (i.e., both Component I and II). Following previously established methods (Beacham and Durand 2007; Kellner et al. 2010; McCaffery et al. 2014; Rawlings and Driver 2010) in this research (a full description of methods is provided in the appendix), we now know that Arroyo Hondo Pueblo plays an exciting role in understanding the complexity of turkey husbandry and exploitation in the prehistoric Southwest.