M.A. Theses: Natalie D. Munro, 1994

An Investigation of Anasazi Turkey Production in Southwestern Colorado

The current study is an investigation of turkey production and its potential as an indicator of intensification, resource access and domestication in southwestern Colorado during the latter part of the Anasazi occupation (ca. A.D. 500-1300). The archaeological remains of turkeys are utilised to investigate four primary questions. The first is whether the turkeys in the sample were domesticated or wild. A reexamination of current divisions of southwestern archaeological turkey species and breeds is performed to address this problem. Second, the changing function of the turkey in Anasazi society is evaluated. Third, intensification in turkey production and its relationship to human population aggregation is examined by tracing temporal change in the proportion of turkeys in Mesa Verde region faunal assemblages. Finally, spatial variation in the intensity of turkey production is considered within the context of resource access, land tenure and community organisation during Pueblo III in the Sand Canyon Locality.

The osteological examination of turkey bone did not reveal whether the turkeys in the Sand Canyon sample were domesticated or wild. Many questions are raised as to the validity of current subdivisions of Meleagris gallopavo into subspecies or distinct breeds. It is proposed that variation may instead be a result of environmental factors, isolation or natural variation within a population. However, numerous contextual indicators suggest that the turkeys in the sample are domesticated.

The function of the turkey in Anasazi society was evaluated by searching for indicators of its value as a ritual or utilitarian resource and evidence for food or feather use in the archaeological record. The data support the utilisation of the turkey for all of these purposes, though its primary function varied over time.

Both temporal and spatialvariation in the intensity of turkey production are recognised in the studyarea. Proportions of turkey in Mesa Verde region faunal assemblages increasedthrough time, most dramatically between Pueblo II and III. This is correlatedwith the initiation of small-scale population aggregation and the specificconditions present at the time. These include increased population densities,restricted mobility and agricultural intensification, which led to thereduction of 'big game' in the Mesa Verde region. As a result I proposethat the Anasazi intensified turkey production to ensure access to a reliablemeat source. In the Sand Canyon Locality during Pueblo III cliff/talus/benchsites exhibited significantly higher proportions of turkey than other locations.It is conjectured that this resulted from the presence of a land tenuresystem which allowed differential access to land. The occupants of thecanyon sites were limited to marginal agricultural land and were thus requiredto increase domestic turkey production to meet their requirements for animalprotein.