Richard Edwards awarded NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant

Richard Edwards (PhD Candidate), under the supervision of Prof. Robert Jeske, will investigate the relationship between subsistence strategies and the development of cultural complexity among early agricultural populations. Traditional literature suggests a close relationship between the development of agriculture with stratified social systems and cultural institutions.

Traditional subsistence analyses can identify important crops, but cannot accurately measure the relative importance of one food source to another. Isotopic analysis of bones can accurately determine the proportion of maize to other foods eaten by an individual. Unfortunately, these analyses are destructive, and few have been undertaken on human remains in the region. To avoid destroying human bone, this project uses the Canine Surrogacy Approach (CSA). CSA is premised on the idea that dogs can act a proxy for humans. Dogs often eat human food and feces, and therefore have similar isotopic signatures to their owners. This project will test all dogs recovered from Oneota sites in Wisconsin and Illinois to determine the relative importance of maize agriculture to hunting and fishing. Combined with other datasets, this analysis will contextualize the role of subsistence practices with the social and political systems used by Oneota groups relative to their neighbors during a time of shifting climate.

National Science Foundation award announcement.