The bayou next to the site was a rich source of fish and clams for the people. Most of the animal food remains archaeologists found at the site came from the bayou. In the earlier part of the Early Woodland period, people ate plants, deer, alligator and turtle, but nothing was more popular than fish. The only bones found in the human coprolites from the site were from fish.
By studying food remains from the site, archaeologists found out that people lived there at different times of the year. They worked this out by looking at three things: otoliths, clamshells and animal bones. Otoliths, small bones found inside the heads of fish, are like clam shells in one way. Both otoliths and shells grow a little each season, gaining a new ring. Knowing this, archaeologists could tell when people harvested the fish and clams by counting these rings. The animal bones researchers found at the site were another good clue about when people lived there. Once archaeologists identified the bones, they figured out which kinds of species were caught the most. Based on the behavior of these animals, archaeologists have a good idea when they were easiest to catch.
The first Tchefuncte people visited the site numerous times during all seasons of the year. They caught most of the freshwater drum fish during the summer and fall, while they hunted turtle and other animals in the spring. The shells left by later Indians show they were harvesting clams in the spring.
(Above) Enlarged image of an otolith taken with a microscope camera. Otoliths are very small, but vary in size depending on species of fish. The one seen here is from a drum fish and measures about 5/8 inch in length. Credit: Louisiana State University Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences.
(Below) Historical depiction of American Indians preserving fish on a rack over an open fire. The people at Bayou Jasmine may have smoked their food in a similar way. Engraving by Theodor de Bry after watercolor by John White. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-53339.
|© 2015 Louisiana Division of Archaeology - click here to return to Discover Archaeology's Interactive Exhibits.|