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Abby Baka

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Shifts in Technology at North Creek Shelter: Implications for Investment, Mobility, and Sexual Division of Labor

Abby Baka, Lisbeth Louderback, Alexandra Greenwald

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I am a second-year master’s student in the department of anthropology working with Dr. Alexandra Greenwald to explore foraging technologies as the relate to dietary and ecological constraints.
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The early Holocene archaeological record at North Creek Shelter (NCS) spans ~11,300-8,350 cal BP. We apply behavioral ecological models to NCS’s faunal, botanical, and lithic assemblages to study how technological changes relate to environmental changes and sexual division of labor. Technological change is measured in terms of degree of investment in different tool types relative to changing abundances of resources they are suited to handle. Changing relationships between chipped and ground stone investment and artiodactyl and high-return plant index values are compared to changes in mobility frequency. NCS’s artiodactyl and high-return plant indices suggest that artiodactyl hunting remained steady while the diet expanded to include lower-return plant resources (Louderback 2021). This pattern was interpreted to reflect differing male and female foraging strategies. We suggest that changes in chipped and ground stone technological investment also reflect differences in male and female foraging behaviors, including mobility and dietary resource prioritization.
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Throughout the Early Holocene, human diets at North Creek Shelter (NCS) in southern Utah expanded to include low-return plant resources such as small seeds, even though high-return artiodactyl use did not decline. This pattern contradicts the diet breadth model, which predicts that low-return resources should only enter a diet when high-return resources decrease in abundance. This pattern has been interpreted to represent two differing responses to ecological change: men continued hunting artiodactyls for prestige while women intensified the collection of plant resources to provision offspring. My research addresses the following question: Do diachronic changes in mobility and investment in chipped and ground stone tools at North Creek Shelter reflect gendered responses to ecological and dietary change on the Colorado Plateau during the Early Holocene?

As a diet broadens to include more plants, technological investment models predict that investment in technology for processing plants should increase relative to investment in technology for procuring animals. Our analyses show that, at NCS: investment in chipped stone technology decreased relative to investment in ground stone technology; overall investment in chipped stone technology did not decrease; and investment in ground stone technology increased.

We demonstrate that increased reliance on plant resources and continued reliance on artiodactyls at NCS were facilitated by two technological strategies: chipped stone tools continued to be produced for hunting and ground stone tools were increasingly relied upon to process plants. Ethnographic evidence suggests that generally men used chipped stone tools to hunt animals while women used ground stone tools to process plants. Certainly, this binary model oversimplifies the nuances of early North American gender and sex roles. However, this study demonstrates that the archaeological record is an amalgamation of the behaviors of different demographics, and that considering those different demographics allows us to understand seeming contradictions in the record.