Coming to Terms with Imperfection: Comparative Studies and the Search for Grazing Impacts in Seventeenth Century New Mexico



Many of the classic questions in zooarchaeology, from the cause of Pleistocene extinctions to the relationship of anthropogenic faunal resource depression to the transition of agriculture, are regional or continental in scale. While the increasing availability of large datasets makes studies focused on such questions ever more possible, comparative meta-analyses come with hazards. This paper uses data from a project testing evidence for grazing impacts in seventeenth century New Mexican archaeological sites to illustrate both the problems and the potential of comparative zooarchaeology. While challenges associated with mechanical problems, differences in chronological resolution, and site type variability all influence results and limit conclusions, even when these problems are addressed this analysis finds no evidence for a decrease in abundance of native ungulates in early Spanish colonial New Mexican archaeofaunas. This result, in association with other studies, suggests severe grazing impacts were not present in New Mexico until the eighteenth century or later.


Meta-analyses New Mexico Grazing impacts Chamisal Pueblo Fruitland Data Recovery project 



This project would have died a natural death if not for timely advice from Steve Wolverton—thank you, Steve! Thanks also to Christina Giovas and Aaron Poteate for their invitation to participate and for their expert editing; to an anonymous reviewer for comments which significantly improved this chapter; to Caroline Gabe for sharing data; and to Robin Cordero, Alex Kurota, the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, the Museum of Southwest Biology, and the Navajo Nation for access to collections.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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