Jeannette Runquist*

(*Department of Biology, Birmingham Southern College)

The identification and analysis of non-fish vertebrate remains from the Tillett site (31DR35) was undertaken at Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham, Alabama. The faunal remains for the two components of the site, Colington and Mount Pleasant, were analyzed separately. The sample from the Colington component consisted of 5,880 fragments of which 5,180 (88.1%) were identifiable at least to class. The sample from the Mount Pleasant component consisted of 808 fragments all of which were identifiable at least to class.


The initial step in the faunal analysis was the taxonomic identification of the remains. Specimens from the zoo-archaeological collection at Birmingham-Southern College were available for comparative purposes. Specimens were identified whenever possible to species; however, many bones were very fragmented and identification was limited often to class. Following identification to taxonomic level, the frag- ments were identified as to skeletal element, e,g., right distal humerus. Any indicators of age and sex were noted.

Three methods were used to quantify species remains: determination of the total number of identifiable fragments of each species; calculation of minimum number of individuals; and calculation of bone weights. Calculation of number of individuals of each species was based upon the minimum-number-of-individuals (MNI) method first described by White (1953). This method involves counting the most common skeletal element of each species. This number corresponds to at least the minimum number of individuals represented in the sample. Variations in age, sex, and size of the individuals were considered in the determination.

Live weights of the non-fish species were determined using bone weights of the archaeological remains. Linear regression formulae used in this calculation were taken from Fradkin (1979). In the formulae, x = body weights in kilograms and y = skeletal weight in kilograms.

log y = 1.03 (log x) - 0.69897
log y = 1.071 (log x) - 1.1871
log y = 1.09 (log x) - 1.2147

(Page 109)

The live weights calculated from these formulae were converted to maximum possible edible meat yield using the percentages: turtles 50%; birds 70%; and mammals 60%.

Using the edible meat yield weights, the calories available from the species were determined. Estimated calories/100 gms used in the calculations were taken from Watt and Merrill (1963). They are:

Other Mammals
126 calories/100 gm
184.25 calories/100 gm
225 calories/100 gm
111 calories/100 gm

Finally, a list of the various species identified and the environment in which they are naturally found was made. Three methods were used to determine the importance of the non-fish fauna exploited in the two major ecological habitats. The first procedure consisted of a species checklist indicating those animals identified. The second method involved calculation of the maximum possible meat yields of these animals, and the third method compared the caloric yields of these species.

Knowledge of the natural history of the various species and their seasons of maximum abundance was used to make inferences concerning seasonality of the components.


In Table D1 are recorded the non-fish species identified in the two components. A total of 15 genera or species of three classes of vertebrates were identified including five species of mammals, four species of birds, and six species of reptiles. Eight species: rabbit (Sylvilagus sp.), raccoon (Procyon lotor, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), mud turtle (Kinosternon sp.), diamond-back terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin, and sliders and scooters (Chrysemys sp.) were common to the two components.

Colington Component

From the Colington component of the Tillett site were examined 5,880 bone fragments of 14 species. Of these 5,180 (88.1%) were identifiable at least to class. Mammalian remains accounted for 2,160 (50.4%) of the identifiable bones, five (33.3%) of the species, and 15 (53.6%) of the MNI. Table D2 lists the species, number of identifiable fragments, and MNI represented in this component.

The white-tailed deer was the most intensively exploited mammal. A minimum of six individuals (number estimate based on right (Page 110) calcanei present) represented by 1375 fragments were examined. All major parts of the animal were represented in the faunal sample. At least one animal was male as evidenced by a skull fragment with the antler base intact. The antler had been shed.

Age estimates were possible on three animals. A left mandible with PM2-PM3 present was aged on basis of tooth wear at 3 1/2 years. Degree of tooth wear as evidence of age was based on Sevringhaus (1953). Two right calcanei were lacking epiphyses indicating animals less than 35 months of age. Age determination on the basis of epiphyseal ossification of selected long bones was based on studies by Lewall and Cowan (1963).

Five raccoons represented by 47 fragments were represented in the faunal sample. Post-cranial remains accounted for 66.0% of the identified fragments. MNI was based on number of right ulnae. All post-cranial remains exhibited full ephiphyseal closure indicative of adult specimens. One dog was represented by an isolated tooth, two metatarsals, and two phalanges. One bear was represented by an atlas. Two rabbits represented by 10 fragments were among the faunal remains. Six post-cranial elements exhibited complete ossification indicative of animals greater than nine months of age. Age of closure of (Page 111)

ossification centers of rabbits was based on studies by Hale (1949). Two species of rabbits, the.eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) and the marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris), are common to the area and determination of species was not attempted.

Avian remains consisted primarily of broken and unidentifiable long bone shafts. Identifiable fragments included a left tibiofibula of Mergus merganser, a right proximal humerus of Linosa sp. and 10 post-cranial fragments of Meleagris gallopavo.

Reptiles were well represented in the faunal assemblage, accounting for six of the identified species, 10 of the MNI and 2357 of the identified bone fragments. Plastron and carapace fragments comprised over 70% of the identifiable turtle remains and for this reason the MNI may be a significant underestimate of the total number of animals actually represented in the sample. Remains included carapace, plastron, and limb elements of three fresh-water species; Kinosternon sp., Chelydra serpentine; and Chrysemys sp.; one brackish water species, Malaclemys terrapin: and one salt water species, Caretta caretta. (Page 112)

Turtles undergo a period of inactivity from December to February and are most abundant from March-May. Their occurrence in the faunal assemblage suggests spring occupation of the site, though summer and fall occupation is possible.

The presence of five vertebrae of the water snake, Natrix sp., probably represents accidental deposition and not deliberate exploitation of this species by the inhabitants of the site.

The 15 species of non-fish vertebrates represented in the faunal assemblage of the Colington phase of the Tillett site would have provided 18.32 kg. of useable meat and 24,204.42 calories (Table D3;. Mammils provided 14.54 kg (79.4%) of the useable meat and 19,047.63 (78.7%) of the available calories. Reptiles provided 2.93 kg (16.0%) of the useable meat and 3,244.52 (13.4%) of the available calories.

While six (40%) of the 15 identified species are inhabitants of the terrestrial habitat, these animals provided 15.39 kg (84%) of the useable meat and 20,954.64 (86.6%) of the available calories. Cursory examination of these data would suggest intensive exploitation of the terrestrial habitat and minimal utilization of the aquatic environment however, it must be remembered that fish remains were not included in this analysis.

The identifiable species do not provide significant information on seasonality of site occupation. All mammals identified can be found year-round on the North Carolina coastal plain, as can the wild turkey. The American merganser (Mergus merganser) and godwit (Limosa sp.) are found in greatest abundance from October to March though numbers of both species may be found throughout the year.

The presence of significant numbers of turtles in the faunal sample suggests spring or summer occupation since these animals undergo a period of reduced activity from December to February and would be more difficult to locate or capture. (Page 113)

Hence while no firm estimate of seasonality may be deduced from the data, there does exist slight evidence favoring a spring or summer occupation.

Mount Pleasant Component

808 bone fragments of nine species of non-fish vertebrates were examined. Mammalian remains accounted for 299 (37.0%) of the bones, three of the identified species, and three of the MNI (Table D4). Although fragments of the white-tailed deer were the most numerous mammalian fragments, only one individual could be definitely identified. Raccoon was represented by six bone fragments. All were post-cranial remains and all exhibited complete epiphyseal closure. Rabbit was represented by one post-cranial fragment and it was completely ossified.

Avian remains were represented by six post-cranial fragments of the wild turkey and one post-cranial element of Anas sp.

Turtle fragments, primarily plaston and carapace elements comprised 56.6% of the skeletal fragments, a minimum of four species, and four MNI. The estimate of MNI is probably significantly low, since it was based on skeletal element which comprised less than 20% of the reptilian remains. (Page 114)

The nine species of non-fish vertebrates would have provided 2.42 kg of useable meat and 2929.41 calories (Table D5). Mammals provided 1.73 kg (71.5%) of the available non-fish meat and 1916.34 (65.4%) of the available calories. Reptiles provided 4.76 kg (19.6%) of the available meat and 528.31 (18.0%) calories.

Four of the identified species occupy a terrestrial habitat and these animals provided 1.94 kg (80.2%) of the meat and 2401.1 (82.0%) of the available calories. Since fish were not included in these calculations, these data do not accurately reflect the relative importance of the terrestrial and aquatic habitats to the inhabitants of the site.

The identified species provide little evidence of seasonal occupation of the site. The presence of turtles at the site may suggest spring or summer occupation, though the small number of these animals makes such a suggestion very tenuous. (Page 115)

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Carolina Algonkian Project, All Rights Reserved