The Faunal Remains from Arroyo Hondo Pueblo, New Mexico

Reviews of The Faunal Remains from Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico: A Study in Short-term Subsistence Change

The Animals of Ancient Santa Fe

         1985 Archaeology 38(3): 82.

The Arroyo Hondo Project and modern archaeological techniques have revealed that, next to deer, domestic turkeys were the most important source of meat for Ancestral Puebloans at Arroyo Hondo. Turkeys were kept in pens inside the pueblo walls and driven out periodically to forage in the countryside. The extent of trade networks was also delineated with the exciting discovery of a ritually interred macaw likely originating 1,000 miles away in Mexico with the Aztecs.

Book Briefs

         1985 The Masterkey Spring 1985: 32.

By dividing faunal remains into time-ordered samples, the authors are able to assess changes through time at Arroyo Hondo, a large 14th century Ancestral Pueblo site. The faunal remains in general also shed light on topics ranging from the importance of certain species in the Pueblo diet to the raising of domesticated turkeys and dogs to prehistoric climate.

Chartkoff, Joseph L.

1985 Review of The Faunal Remains from Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico: A Study in Short-term Subsistence Change, by Richard W. Lang and Arthur H. Harris. The Artifact 23: 87-98.

SAR’s Arroyo Hondo project seems destined to be a hallmark of its era because of the new data it has produced (already resulting in 5 reports) and its innovative approaches. The project, designed and spearheaded by Douglas Schwartz, was groundbreaking for its incorporation of tenets held dear by “New Archaeology” such as the exploration of change over time, the relationship between a community and its environment, and the inclusion of both quantitative and qualitative analyses. This report on faunal remains is particularly novel since little has been written about the use of faunal resources in the Pueblo IV period up to this point. In fact, many Southwestern archaeologists have assumed that the use of faunal resources was relatively unimportant when compared to agriculture. Lang and Harris, however, argue that the labor put into hunting and its resulting food compared well with that put into and gained from agriculture.

Broken into two parts, the first section of the book is about the analysis and significance of faunal remains uncovered from the site. The second section contains 3 chapters covering bone artifacts, shell artifacts, and, last, hide, fur, and feather artifacts. Chapter 1 of Part I discusses, among other topics, the methodology of analysis: the authors use MNI, but are aware of its drawbacks. They also introduce a statistic representing the estimated weight of dressed meat obtainable from each species. Chapter 2 discusses the pueblo’s environment and how its fluctuations, such as severe drought around 1340 and then increased precipitation around 1380, affected the pueblo’s large population. Chapter 3 presents evidence for the heavy exploitation of wild animals. Analyzing the almost 25,000 bones recovered from the 7 percent of the site that was excavated, the authors were able to demonstrate that a calorie-based explanation for targeting resources was inadequate in explaining the totality of hunting behavior. Speculation on territorial exploitation was well reasoned. The weakest part of the chapter was the tables of faunal data: they were both difficult to follow and to compare. Chapter 4 describes evidence for the processing (butchering, skinning, and cooking) of animals based on cut marks and burning on bone, but the authors neglected to attempt replications with experimental cooking techniques. Chapter 5 discusses the keeping and raising of animals, specifically dogs, turkeys (a significant economic activity and the most important meat source), and macaws. The short Chapter 6 then discusses the importation of animals, specifically macaws from Mexico, turtles from the Northern Rio Grande, perhaps for ritual use. Two appendices with lists of identified species and raw counts conclude Section 1.

Part II’s bone chapter identifies bone artifacts (i.e., awls, ornaments, musical instruments, stone-knapping tools, hide processing tools) and then compares the assemblage with other Pueblo IV sites in the region. The analysis of shell artifacts, meanwhile, shows that 70 percent were Olivella and that 90 percent date to Occupation I, rather than Occupation II contexts. This suggests that trade route reconstruction occurred and that the Gulf of California was more important than the Pacific Coast as a source. The last chapter covers hide, fur, and feather artifacts – whose simple preservation was remarkable – found with burials. Hides often served as inner burial shrouds and feather-cord textiles as outer shrouds.

The report succeeds in contributing data and knowledge to the pivotal, but relatively unknown Pueblo IV period; in illuminating the importance of animal, rather than plant, resources; in suggesting that, in the Pueblo IV era, long-standing north-south trade routes along the Rio Grande gave way to east-west ones; and in raising suggestive implications about social organization.

The book itself was handsome and the production excellent, however, some of the figures and photographs were sometimes lacking. Generally, the lack of an overall perspective or global integration meant some important topics were not considered. The exclusion of skeletal parts found per species, for example, ensures that later researchers will not be able to distinguish between relative importance of species in the diet versus the simple weight of meat and bone carried back to the pueblo from a kill site. There is a similar absence of provenience data about finds.

In sum, then, the inferences drawn in this report are so particular to Arroyo Hondo that it is difficult to make inferences from this report on the Pueblo IV period in general. Nevertheless, this study will definitely be influential for its high standards of analysis and for showing what one can do with faunal resources.

Feagins, Jim D.

1985 Review of The Faunal Remains from Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico: A Study in Short-term Subsistence Change, by Richard W. Lang and Arthur H. Harris. Oklahoma Anthropological Society Newsletter 33: 8.

With a sample of over 25,000 excavated animal bones and relatively precise time control, the authors were able to produce an excellent study in short-term subsistence change for a large Southwest U.S. pueblo. This 5th report in SAR’s Arroyo Hondo series is an outstanding example of what one can glean from zooarchaeological data and should be of interest to all archaeologists. Analysis covers a wide swathe of topics ranging from the raising of dogs and turkeys to prehistoric trade in animals to the dietary importance of different animals, all along emphasizing that wild animal resources – and not just plant resources – were very important to the prehistoric occupants of Arroyo Hondo. The second part of the report contains 3 chapters covering the identification of 1,000+ bone artifacts and 255 shell artifacts, and, last, the analysis of hide, feather, and fur artifacts. Although there are a few errors, the report’s figures, photographs, and drawings are useful and appropriate.

Fontana, Bernard L.

1985 Review of The Faunal Remains from Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico: A Study in Short-term Subsistence Change, by Richard W. Lang and Arthur H. Harris. Books of the Southwest April 1985: 13.

This volume serves as a model for how future faunal analysis should be conducted and presented. In particular, this report identifies and interprets animal remains such as bone and shell to make inferences about Arroyo Hondo’s changing economy.

Mini Views of Books We Think Special

         1985 Book Talk 14(3): 8.

This is the 5th book in the thorough examination of Arroyo Hondo Pueblo. The entire set will likely prove essential to both amateur and professional archaeologists interested in Pueblo life. This book makes important conclusions regarding animal use based on the analysis of over 25,000 bones recovered from the site.

New Books

         1985 Archaeology 38(3): 12.

Olsen, Stanley J.

1986 Review of The Faunal Remains from Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico, by Richard W. Lang and Arthur H. Harris. The Quarterly Review of Archaeology September-December 1986: 10.

Arroyo Hondo is a representative large pueblo dating to the early 14th century. Occupied for about a century, at its height there may have been over 1,000 people practicing agriculture, hunting, and raising turkeys. NSF-supported research under SAR began in 1970. This lengthy and detailed faunal report, designed to provide insight into the pueblo’s subsistence strategy and the importance of wild animals, should prove to be a useful reference for the entire Southwest. It is separated into two parts with a number of additional maps, figures, and tables in the appendices covering artifacts made of hide, fur, feathers, bone, and shell. Analysis revealed that some animals prevalent today were similarly important for the prehistoric pueblo like the desert cottontail, the black-tailed jackrabbit, and the mule deer. Conversely, some animals that were prevalent in the past, such as the prairie dog, are not common at the site today. This report is unique for its full consideration of birds (including macaws) and small animals. The authors displayed care in their analysis by first coding and identifying the faunal remains using comparative collections of modern skeletons. They also provided MNI (minimum number of individuals), RBC (raw bone count), bone weight (a problematic category because of inherent preservation issues), and EDW (estimated dressed meat weight). Something that is lacking is the stated methodology the authors used in differentiating between different species of ground squirrel. In sum, deer and rabbit along with turkey composed the bulk of the prehistoric diet. The authors used antler size to make inferences about seasonality (although this, too, is problematic) and cut marks to make inferences about butchering practices. They also considered trade in animals, particularly turtles and macaws, which may have had ritual purposes.