Animal Use in the Georgia Pine Barrens: An Example from the Hartford Site (9Pu1)

Article excerpt

Vertebrate remains recovered from a large fire and refuse pit at the Hartford site (9PU1), Pulaski County, Georgia, provide a rare opportunity to consider animal use in the Georgia Pine Barrens. This Middle Woodland feature is located on the upper Atlantic Coastal Plain at a site that once had a village and at least one mound. The feature was inside a large oval structure beneath the mound. The collection contains 24,143 vertebrate specimens representing the remains of a minimum of 131 individuals from 43 taxa. This large, rich, moderately diverse sample yields evidence of aquatic and terrestrial resource use, multiple seasons of deposition, human interaction with the Piedmont and coast, and selective use of deer carcasses. Although comparative data are rare, data are available from two other upper Coastal Plain sites: G. S. Lewis and Kolomoki. Data from these three sites indicate vertebrate remains are an important source of evidence of human behavior and can be abundant at sites in the Pine Barrens.

In 1970, Lewis Larson (1980) divided the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains into the Coastal sector, the South Florida sector, and the Pine Barrens sector. The Pine Barrens sector is bounded by the Fall Line Hills of the Atlantic and Gulf slopes and the tidal limits of rivers draining into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico (Larson 1980:36). Larson hypothesized that during the Mississippian period, the Pine Barrens were unoccupied by permanent populations and were largely unsettled (Larson 1980:56, 58-59, 65). He argued for limited Mississippian use of the Pine Barrens because the sector had little subsistence value; the land was unsuited to maize cultivation, and few other resources were accessible with available technology (Larson 1980:56). Larson (1980:52-56) maintained that floodplains, bays, and swamps within the Pine Barrens were more productive than upland habitat, but even these areas offered limited resources. He also argued the Pine Barrens restricted cultural contact between coastal communities and those in the interior portions of North America (Larson 1980:65, 228). Although archaeologists are aware the Georgia Pine Barrens were occupied throughout the prehispanic period (e.g., Snow 1975, 1977; Stephenson et al. 1996; Williams 1994), Larson's hypotheses pertaining to animal use in the Pine Barrens are largely unexplored because little archaeological faunal evidence is available to inform the discussion.

The Georgia Pine Barrens were clearly not isolated and uninhabited in the past (e.g., Snow 1975, 1977; Stephenson et al. 1996; Williams 1994). Site surveys provide evidence of human occupation of the Pine Barrens from the Paleoindian through Mississippian periods (Williams 1994). However, sites are not as abundant on the upper Coastal Plain as in other regions of Georgia (Williams 1994). Middle and Late Woodland period sites are more common in the Pine Barrens than sites occupied during other periods (e.g., Snow 1975; Williams 1994). Sites on the upper Coastal Plain primarily are found by archaeological surveys along rivers. Typically, these surveys provide little or no quantified information about animal use, thereby hindering efforts to address issues related to human subsistence behavior.

Archaeologists conducting salvage work at the Hartford site (9PU1) recovered a large vertebrate collection, thus providing a rare opportunity to study vertebrate use in the Pine Barrens (Figure 1). Hartford is a Middle Woodland, Swift Creek site located on the Ocmulgee River. The site was well situated for people to use aquatic, floodplain, and upland resources. Hartford's location also may have enabled the residents to serve as intermediaries for exchange between the Piedmont and coast (e.g., Snow 1998; Snow and Stephenson 1998).

The Hartford vertebrate faunal collection permits us to address several questions developed from Larson's hypotheses concerning animal use in the Pine Barrens sector:

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