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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Desert Tortoise (Xerobates agassizii) in the Prehistory of the Southwestern Great Basin and Adjacent Areas

  • Author(s): Schneider, Joan S.;
  • Everson, G. Dicken
  • et al.

This study is focused on the desert areas of California and Nevada. The ranges of the western pond turtle and the desert tortoise overlap in portions of this region so that specific attention is directed to these two species in the first part of this paper. Similar archaeological problems may exist in other areas where species ranges overlap (e.g., Hohokam sites in Arizona).

Faunal analysts should be aware that both turtle and tortoise remains can occur at archaeological sites in areas where their ranges overlap or where there is a possibility that these animals, or objects derived from them, were exchanged. Environmental and cultural interpretations that are based in part on faunal remains should consider that while turtle and tortoise elements may be confused, ecological requirements and seasonal availability generally are very different for the two reptilian genera.

The second part of this paper narrows the focus to the desert tortoise, the remains of which are present in many sites in the southwestern Great Basin and adjacent eastern areas (Tables 1-3; Fig. 1). The major portion of the ethnographic literature search and the synthetic discussion is focused on this animal.

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