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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Small Mammal Procurement in Coastal Contexts: A California Perspective


Faunal remains from two sites spanning the Middle and Late Holocene (8,000-300 BP) in central California show a decline in small mammal, primarily rabbit, procurement through time, despite groining human populations and intensification of a number of other resources. Models derived from optimal foraging theory and a broader subsistence approach are used to investigate the role rabbits played within the context of human population increase, emerging long-distance and intensified local exchange, and developing socio-political complexity. The models suggest that the best explanation of the identified faunal pattern is a change in patch choice with a concurrent shift to sea otter pelts as exchange items. Models based on optimal foraging theory need to consider the non-dietary value of certain resources to better understand faunal assemblages from archaeological sites.

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