Evidence for Local Fish Catch In Zooarchaeology

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Anthropology and Museum Studies

Publication Date



Fish bones at archaeological sites may be used to address anthropological questions about past fishing practices and trade, as well as biological questions about past species distributions. In both cases, it is important to distinguish fish caught locally from those transported longer distances to the disposal site. The necessary standard of proof may vary by the geographic scale of the study and proximity to fish habitat, but multiple lines of evidence should be brought to bear, such as regional ethnography or oral history, fishing artifacts, available local habitat, skeletal parts frequencies, and bone chemistry. An example from the American Pacific Northwest demonstrates the complexity of determining catch location. The question at the Grissom site was whether the bones could demonstrate past salmonid and other fish occurrence in the adjacent Caribou Creek. Of seven fish species identified, three species were interpreted as local catch, one as local but indicating a change in range, and three as equivocal.


This article was originally published in Journal of Ethnobiology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Journal of Ethnobiology


Society of Ethnobiology