M.A. Theses: Peter T. Bobrowsky, 1982

Quantitative and Qualitative Significance of Fossil and Subfossil Gastropod Remains in Archaeology

This study is concerned with the interpretation of gastropod remains from archaeological sites in the Yukon Territory, Illinois and Kentucky. Emphasis is placed on the application of simple statistical models and analyses to the interpretation of prehistoric cultural and environmental shifts. Furthermore, a collation of known modern ecological parameters of the identified species is provided an employed in the qualitative interpretation of paleoenvironmental conditions.

An historical review of molluscan zooarchaeology is presented to show the gradual development of changing research objectives and methodologies in snail analysis. Similarly, a formalized outline of the mechanisms for shell introduction into archaeological sites is presented in detail. These mechanisms are evaluated for their significance in contributing to shell accumulations recovered in both natural and cultural deposits.

Emphasis is also placed on the recovery techniques employed in shell retrieval and the subsequent presentation of numerical data in the published record. Variability in these two aspects is shown to be a significant source of bias in the interpretation of data.

The concept of ecological diversity is examined and a method for its measurement is presented and applied to archaeological gastropod samples. Variations in diversity between samples is shown to be an important element in assemblage interpretations. Similarly, the truncated lognormal distribution is applied to various archaeological samples to illustrate how the representative nature of samples can be statistically assessed. In general, this study illustrates the need for greater rigor in the analysis of gastropod remains from archaeological contexts.