Isotopic Evidence for Long-Distance Mammal Procurement, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, USA

Deanna N. Grimstead, Jay Quade, Mary C. Stiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Previous research on the prehistoric communities of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (ca. A.D. 800–1250) provides evidence of an extensive procurement system of nonlocal food and economic goods. In this paper, we use oxygen and strontium isotope analyses to establish whether animal protein followed a similar pattern. We contextualized our isotopic analyses of the archaeofaunas from recent excavations at Pueblo Bonito with data on modern faunas across an area of approximately 100,000 km2 around the site. Our results show that most archaeological deer, rabbits, and prairie dogs were obtained from >40 km away from Pueblo Bonito with the latter two likely being garden hunted. The Chuska Mountains west of Chaco Canyon and more distant San Juan Mountains to the north were the main source areas. These results closely align with previous results on architectural wood, corn, and other key resources. The importation of small game animals suggests that the local supplies could not meet the needs of the community. Long-distance meat procurement may have been embedded within a more complex network of ritual-goods exchange or tribute that helped to offset the transport costs. Resource depletion may have contributed to the eventual abandonment of the region during the Medieval Warm Period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-354
Number of pages20
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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