One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish : new methods for speciating archaelogical fish vertebrae and the implications for reconstructing Pacific Prehistory

Lambrides, Ariana (2011). One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish : new methods for speciating archaelogical fish vertebrae and the implications for reconstructing Pacific Prehistory Honours Thesis, School of Social Sciences, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Lambrides, Ariana
Thesis Title One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish : new methods for speciating archaelogical fish vertebrae and the implications for reconstructing Pacific Prehistory
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Sciences
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-10
Thesis type Honours Thesis
Supervisor Marshall Weisler
Total pages 204
Language eng
Subjects 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
Formatted abstract

Since the prehistoric colonisation and expansion across the Pacific, fishing has served as the dominant source of protein, and remained central to ritual and social life. Fish bones are the most ubiquitous vertebrate faunal class in Pacific archaeological sites and vertebrae are the most commonly preserved elements. Given the good preservation of archaeological vertebrae it is unfortunate that a routine speciation protocol has not been developed.

In this thesis vertebrae speciation models were developed using modern specimens, and then the protocol was used to identify vertebrae from an Archaic archaeological site (HEN-5) on Henderson Island, Pitcairn Group, southeast Polynesia. Both qualitative and quantitative variables of morphological distinction were considered to establish the models; detailed photos of the reference specimens were captured, and statistical analyses including factor analysis by principal components and discriminant analysis were implemented.

Two separate analyses of the cranial and "special" elements from HEN-5, Test Pit 12 had been completed prior to this study by Weisler and the most abundant eight families of fish recovered from HEN-5 were used to complete the vertebrae analysis. In contrast to the results of previous analyses, surgeonfishes (Acanthuridae) rather than groupers (Serranidae) are the most abundant family of fish within the assemblage. This clearly demonstrates that element preservation is not consistent between families, and that by identifying primarily cranial bones to nearest taxon an accurate representation of relative fish abundance may not be achieved. Beyond concerns of preservation, the results demonstrate that by increasing the diversity of elements used for identification and quantification, more of the assemblage can be identified. This study significantly changed the observed relative abundance of fish from the HEN-5 archaeological site by identifying the vertebrae to family; consequently, more complete interpretations of prehistoric marine subsistence are possible. It is argued that the identification protocol, developed here, should become a routine tool for Pacific fish bone analysis.

Keyword Vertebrae speciation models
Henderson Island, Pitcairn Group
Dating and chronology

 
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