Vegetation, wildlife, and human foraging in prehistoric western Virginia
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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 regionâ 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 foragersâ 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 bandâ 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 bandâ 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 Solomonâ 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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