Innocence before Guilt: The ‘Cultural Filter’ and the Applied Potential of Zooarchaeological Data
Authors: E. Peacock, C. R. Randklev, S. Wolverton, R. A. Palmer, S. Zaleski
Large assemblages of animal bones and/or shells from archaeological sites can provide data valuable for modern conservation efforts, e.g., by providing accurate historical baselines for species reintroductions or habitat restoration. Such data are underused by natural scientists, partly due to assumptions that archaeological materials are too biased by prehistoric human actions (the so-called "cultural filter") to accurately reflect past biotic communities. In order to address many paleobiological, archaeological, or applied research questions, data on past species, communities, and populations must first be demonstrated to be representative at the appropriate level. We discuss different ways in which one kind of cultural bias, human transport of specimens, can be tested at different scales, using freshwater mussel shells from prehistoric sites in the Tombigbee River basin of Mississippi and Alabama to show how representativeness of samples can be assessed.
Peacock, Evan, Charles R. Randklev, Steve Wolverton, Ronald A. Palmer, and Sarah Zaleski. 2012. The “cultural filter,” human transport of mussel shell, and the applied potential of zooarchaeological data. Ecological Applications 22:1446–1459.