Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Hill, Matthew E.

First Committee Member

Enloe, James G.

Second Committee Member

Beck, Margaret E.

Third Committee Member

Lensink, Stephen C.

Fourth Committee Member

Bettis, E. Arthur


The appearance of agriculture brought profound changes to the technology, social organization, and lifestyles of early farming communities across the globe. From the perspective of hunter-gatherers, the adoption of agriculture carried the risk of starvation if crops failed and other food sources were seasonally unavailable or locally depleted. Why prehistoric peoples adopted agriculture considering this risk is a fundamental question within archaeology. My dissertation research focuses on understanding the role that wild animal resources played toward the speed and scale of the adoption of agriculture, using the tallgrass prairie region of western Iowa as a case study. The tallgrass prairie is a transitional environment between the grasslands of the Great Plains and the deciduous woodlands of the eastern United States. Domesticated plants were introduced to this region during the late Archaic period (ca. 3000-800 BC), and gradually incorporated into the diet with increasing intensity throughout the Woodland period (ca. 800 BC-AD 1200). My research establishes the long-term trends in animal use within this environmental context which may have set the stage for the adoption of and later reliance upon plant-based agriculture. Specifically, I examine the diet-breadth of Woodland peoples by establishing which animal species they exploited, and to what degree. Evidence of resource stress is identified through the intensity in which large game (bison and deer) carcasses were processed. Finally, I explore the use of pocket gophers as survival food at one important location, the Rainbow site (13PM91).


xiv, 223 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 192-223).


Copyright © 2018 Meredith Anne Wismer

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