Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 127–149 | Cite as

Reduced Population Variance in Strontium Isotope Ratios Informs Domesticated Turkey Use at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, USA

  • Deanna N. GrimsteadEmail author
  • Amanda C. Reynolds
  • Adam M. Hudson
  • Nancy J. Akins
  • Julio L. Betancourt


Traditionally, strontium isotopes (87Sr/86Sr) have been used as a sourcing tool in numerous archaeological artifact classes. The research presented here demonstrates that 87Sr/86Srbioapatite ratios also can be used at a population level to investigate the presence of domesticated animals and methods of management. The proposed methodology combines ecology, isotope geochemistry, and behavioral ecology to assess the presence and nature of turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) domestication. This case study utilizes 87Sr/86Srbioapatite ratios from teeth and bones of archaeological turkey, deer (Odocoileus sp.), lagomorph (Lepus sp. and Sylvilagus sp.), and prairie dog (Cynomys sp.) from Chaco Canyon, NM, USA (ca. A.D. 800–1250). Wild deer and turkey from the southwestern USA have much larger home ranges and dispersal behaviors (measured in kilometers) when compared to lagomorphs and prairie dogs (measured in meters). Hunted deer and wild turkey from archaeological contexts at Chaco Canyon are expected to have a higher variance in their 87Sr/86Srbioapatite ratios, when compared to small range taxa (lagomorphs and prairie dogs). Contrary to this expectation, 87Sr/86Srbioapatite values of turkey bones from Chacoan assemblages have a much lower variance than deer and are similar to that of smaller mammals. The sampled turkey values show variability most similar to lagomorphs and prairie dogs, suggesting the turkeys from Chaco Canyon were consuming a uniform diet and/or were constrained within a limited home range, indicating at least proto-domestication. The population approach has wide applicability for evaluating the presence and nature of domestication when combined with paleoecology and behavioral ecology in a variety of animals and environments.


Domestication Turkey Home range Strontium isotopes Sourcing Southwestern U.S. Chaco Canyon 



We thank Larry Benson, W. Wills, John Driver, Wendy Bustard, and the Museum of Southwestern Biology and the NPS Chaco Museum Collection for samples or data used in our paper. We also thank Scott P. Lehrich, Senior Regional Biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation, for providing access to GIS data for modern turkey distributions and Selin Nugent for capturing the video of the Azerbaijani tethered turkey. Funding was provided by the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, NSF IGERT in Archaeological Science, the International Society of the P.E.O., William G. McGinnis Arid Lands Scholarship, Joe Ben Wheat Research Award, and the Fred Plog Memorial Fellowship.

Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deanna N. Grimstead
    • 1
    Email author
  • Amanda C. Reynolds
    • 2
  • Adam M. Hudson
    • 3
  • Nancy J. Akins
    • 4
  • Julio L. Betancourt
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.ConocoPhillipsHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeosciencesThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  4. 4.Center for New Mexico ArchaeologySanta FeUSA
  5. 5.National Research Program, Water Mission Area, U.S. Geological SurveyRestonUSA

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