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Evaluating Native American Bird Use and Bird Assemblage Variability along the Oregon Coast

TitleEvaluating Native American Bird Use and Bird Assemblage Variability along the Oregon Coast
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsBovy KM, Moss ML, Watson JE, White FJ, Jones TT, Ulrich HA, Parrish JK
JournalThe Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology,
Start Page301
Date Published05/22/2018

Native American use of birds on the Oregon coast is not well known and has never been synthesized to present a regional understanding. We rectify this by analyzing data from 26 zooarchaeological assemblages, including three previously unpublished bird assemblages: Umpqua/Eden (35DO83), Whale Cove (35LNC60), and the Dunes Site (35CLT27). We employ a series of non-parametric randomization tests to directly evaluate patterns of taxonomic diversity, correlations with nearby breeding colonies, and broader procurement strategies discussed in ethnohistorical accounts. We compare the assemblages to contemporary surveys of naturally beached birds as observed by COASST (Coastal Observation Seabird Survey Team) and evaluate whether archaeological specimens were scavenged from the beach. While 71% of the identified bird remains belong to just three families (Anatidae, Alcidae, and Procellariidae), closer analysis reveals the incredible diversity of birds used by Oregon coast Native Americans. The assemblages vary considerably in terms of taxonomic diversity and composition, leading us to conclude that people used birds opportunistically, likely incorporating multiple strategies, including hunting, collecting beached carcasses and targeting cormorantcolonies. We hope that the methods and approaches employed here will inspire other archaeologists to devote more attention to bird assemblages, and how their study can inform conservation efforts.