The Tutu Archaeological Village Site: A Case Study in Human Adaptation

By Elizabeth Righter | Go to book overview

Chapter Four


Faunal remains from the Tutu site

Elizabeth S. Wing, Susan D. deFrance and Laura Kozuch


INTRODUCTION

Numerous large samples of faunal remains recovered from the Tutu site provide the opportunity to examine many aspects of the exploitation of animal resources at this extensive and complex village site. Faunal samples from the site were studied from deposits of Ceramic Age occupation which date from approximately AD 65 to AD 1500. Major changes in the faunal assemblages during this time period were first noted by Rainey (1940) in Puerto Rican sites. The changes he described are a shift from what he called the crab culture to the shell culture. Since Rainey's discovery, this faunal change has been observed in many West Indian sites in which deposits associated with Saladoid people contain abundant crab remains, followed by refuse left by Ostionoid or post-Saladoid people, in which mollusk shells predominate (Rouse, 1992:94). The causes and timing of this change have been debated since Rainey's description of this apparent shift in resource consumption (Wing, 1995). Multiple samples from this time range at Tutu allow further examination of this faunal change and other accompanying changes in the use of animal resources on St Thomas.

A better understanding of regional patterns of resource use is also obtained by comparison of the faunal assemblage from the Tutu site with faunal assemblages from two other sites on St Thomas. These sites are Main Street and Magens Bay. Both Main Street and Magens Bay differ from the Tutu site in being located directly on the coast. The Main Street site is in what is now the town of Charlotte Amalie on the edge of southward facing St Thomas Harbor, while the Magens Bay site is situated on the shore of the large northward facing bay after which it was named (Figure 1.2).

The Virgin Islands are uniquely positioned between the Greater and Lesser Antilles. This is a location between the large islands with their diverse terrestrial faunas, and the smaller Antillean stepping stones leading from the South American mainland. Based on their abundance in middens (Wing, 1989; 1993), the large endemic rodents known as hutia (Capromyidae) were important in the subsistence of people living in the Greater Antilles. These rodents are absent in the Lesser Antilles, but in their stead are several different species of rice rats (Cricetidae). The use of endemic species was supplemented by introduced mainland animals in the Lesser Antilles. The Virgin Islands had neither endemic hutia nor rice rats. Mammals represented in the sites of the Virgin Islands were the insectivore, Nesophontes edithae, and the hutia, Isolobodon portoricensis, which were introduced from the Greater Antilles and provide tangible evidence of prehispanic contact with the Greater Antilles. Detailed examination of the faunal remains from the Tutu site provides further information about the management of these animals.

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