Authors: T. Popejoy, S. Wolverton, L. Nagaoka, C.R. Randklev

Zooarchaeological freshwater mussel remains provide information about past environments, faunal communities, and human behaviors. However, one challenge of using archaeological assemblages of animal remains is differential preservation such that bones and shells of some taxa are more vulnerable to processes that destroy or remove them from the record over time. Thus, remains of some species of freshwater mussels may be underrepresented in terms of presence/absence data as well as abundance compared to the life or death assemblages. Evaluating the representativeness of assemblages before using such data to answer zooarchaeological and paleozoological research questions is common practice in archaeology, particularly for vertebrate remains. However, little research has focused on evaluating representativeness for molluscan assemblages. In this paper, three processes that potentially influence archaeomalacological data are addressed: mussel life history strategies, shell identifiability, and shell robusticity. Expectations about taxonomic abundances in unionid zooarchaeological assemblages are framed and assessed using two datasets from sites from the Leon River in central Texas. As expected, shell robusticity and identifiability influence zooarchaeological abundance data; differences in life history strategy can be used to interpret past stream environments. The expectations derived in this paper can be used as interpretive tools for understanding factors that influence archaeomalacological taxonomic abundance data.

Suggested Citation

T. Popejoy, S. Wolverton, L. Nagaoka, C.R. Randklev. 2017. An interpretive framework for assessing freshwater mussel taxonomic abundances in zooarchaeological faunas. Quaternary International 427: 36-46