2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)

Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM


NOLD, Kathryn D.1, JOHNSON, Claudia C.2, CONRAD, Geoffrey W.3, BEEKER, Charles D.4, KAUFFMAN, Erle G.2 and ELSWICK, Erika R.5, (1)Geological Sciences, Anthropology, Indiana University, 1001 E. 10th St, Bloomington, IN 47405, (2)Geological Sciences, Indiana University, 1001 E. 10th St, Bloomington, IN 47405, (3)Anthropology, Indiana University, Student Building 130, 701 E. Kirkwood Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405, (4)Kinesiology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, (5)Geological Sciences, Indiana University, 1001 E. Tenth St., Bloomington, IN 47405, knold@indiana.edu

Middens collected near La Isabela, Dominican Republic, contained thousands of shells deposited by Taíno approximately 500 years ago. Analysis of data collected through identification and measurement of midden shells will elucidate the marine aspect of Taíno diet at La Isabela and allow for inference of indigenous utilization of a marine ecosystem. Midden shells were scrutinized for shuck marks created by Taíno to describe collection practices. Shells collected from contemporary environments at La Isabela were analyzed for modern taxonomic and size trends to compare to midden shell trends. La Isabela is a uniquely significant location to undertake this study because it is the first European settlement in America - relatively little research has been conducted to-date at this site.

The midden collection contains bivalves, gastropods, vertebrate bones, barnacles and crabs. Bivalvia and Gastropoda represent more than 95% of midden taxa with 2,229 and 3,538 individuals, respectively. Littorinidae, Neritidae, and Ostreidae are the most abundant families Taíno utilized as food resources, suggesting Taíno preferentially collected locally abundant, small intertidal snails and byssate bivalves. Twenty-eight families represent less than 5% of the midden collection, indicating Taíno collected a large variety of taxa in small numbers. Shuck marks were identified at bivalve hinge regions and gastropod apertures. Spearman’s rank coefficient signifies no correlation in the taxonomic composition at the family level in midden and modern shells, suggesting the need to further examine the taxonomic composition of each collection. Statistical analyses of valve length in midden and modern shells indicate a significant difference in two of ten families examined, suggesting size trends are similar in midden and modern shells but further examination of the two significant families is necessary.

It is anticipated these results will add to archaeological knowledge of Taíno diet, and support further protection of Taíno archaeological sites. This research contributes to the scientific database on tropical molluscs that will further an understanding of aboriginal impacts on tropical marine ecosystems, and document molluscan abundance and diversity trends from a datum 500 years ago compared to today.