Measure by measure: The interpretation of human behaviour from the identification and metric analysis of the Hawaiian limpet (Cellana spp.) from prehistoric archaeological sites in Hawai’i

19th December 2012

Robin Twaddle

Reliable  speciation  protocols  used  for  identifying  shellfish from  prehistoric  archaeological  sites  provide  robust  data for   interpreting   prehistoric   human   behaviour.   Because prehistoric  Hawai’ian  shell  middens  are  dominated  by  the limpet Cellana spp., these taxa have previously been utilised to document anthropogenic impacts on the marine environment and  to  reconstruct  subsistence  practices.  However,  without accurate species-level identifications of marine shellfish from archaeological sites and an understanding of the surrounding coastal  marine  environment,  it  is  difficult  to  differentiate between cultural and environmental influences on variations in shellfish size and abundance. This research presents newly designed and tested speciation methods developed specifically for whole and fragmentary archaeological limpet shell. Species- level identifications are then made using assemblages from four prehistoric archaeological sites situated along the northern coast of Moloka’i, Hawai’i. Results reveal that analysis of temporal and spatial fluctuations in the size and abundance of Cellana spp. provide detailed information regarding human subsistence behaviour. However, these  variations  alone  do  not  provide irrefutable evidence for anthropogenic impact. In order to make meaningful inferences about prehistoric subsistence practices and human impacts on marine resources, a holistic approach encompassing ecological information about marine ecosystems, ecology of targeted shellfish, and the variation of shellfish diversity and size in archaeological midden sites throughout a study area is required.

Robin Twaddle
Measure by measure: The interpretation of human behaviour from the identification and metric analysis of the Hawaiian limpet (Cellana spp.) from prehistoric archaeological sites in Hawai’i
2012
75
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Thesis Abstracts
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