Title page for ETD etd-11212012-040200

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Diamond, Seth J.
URN etd-11212012-040200
Title Vegetation, wildlife, and human foraging in prehistoric western Virginia
Degree Master of Science
Department Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Giles, Robert H. Jr. Committee Chair
Cross, Gerald H. Committee Member
Heikkenen, Herman John Committee Member
Kirkpatrick, Roy L. Committee Member
Taylor, Daniel B. Committee Member
  • Roanoke County Antiquities
  • Biotic communities (Roanoke County VA) history
Date of Defense 1989-02-15
Availability unrestricted

To improve the study and management of Havens Wildlife Management Area (HWMA) in Roanoke County, Virginia, the ecological history of the Ridge and Valley Province of Virginia was investigated. Palynological, paleontological, archaeological, and historical data were synthesized into a comprehensive history of the region’s vegetation, fauna, and humans from 25,000 B.P. to Euroamerican settlement. A linear programming model was developed to examine the relationship between the energy demand of a human band and the food resources of HWMA 2,500 years ago. The model was based on the assumption that prehistoric human foraging was impelled by the need to satisfy energy requirements and that prehistoric human foragers strove for maximum energetic efficiency. The model was driven by an objective function, that minimized the cost (expressed in hours of labor) of the human foragers’ diet. Constraints on the achievement of this goal were the available metabolizable energy in selected mountain food resources and the energy demand of a 25-person band. The product of the model was a regimen of food resources that met the band’s annual energy requirement at the lowest cost. The model predicted that fall was the dominant foraging season on HWMA. Chestnut was the major food resource, satisfying 54% of the band’s annual energy demand. Additional primary resources were opossum and raccoon, elk, woodchuck, white-tailed deer, and black bear. Secondary and tertiary resources were passenger pigeon, bitter acorns, hickory nuts, and false Solomon’s seal rhizomes. Marginal food resources were wild turkey, Jack-in-the-pulpit corms, eastern cottontail, gray squirrel, sweet acorns, and box turtle. An annual foraging strategy with a fall-winter focus in mountain ecosystems and a spring-summer focus in lowland ecosystems was suggested by the model. A comparison of the model results with an archaeological data indicated that hickory nuts were overrepresented and chestnuts underrepresented at archaeological sites, and that clothing, not food, limited human population density in upland western Virginia ecosystems.

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