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Pull of the hills: Affluent foragers of the western Black Hills

Marcel Kornfeld, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The role of big game in human foraging economies, and subsistence specialization on such resources, are issues that have received considerable attention in anthropological literature. The Northwest Plains of North America is one area where historic specialization on bison is well known and this economy has been projected onto prehistory. My research outlines alternative economic and subsistence strategies for the prehistoric inhabitants of the region. These strategies are outlined through the development of a broad spectrum model of forager subsistence in the western Black Hills, a portion of the Northwest Plains culture area. The investigation begins with foraging theory, a consideration of the available resources, and ecological principles constraining their exploitation. The spatial organization of technology is used to evaluate the model. Specifically, attributes of chipped stone, ground stone, and pottery are analyzed with respect to spatial distribution, co-occurrence and relationships to environmental variables. The point of departure in this analysis of technological organization is the use of spatially expansive data from widely distributed surface recorded sites, rather than the more commonly used spatially constricted excavated site data. The results suggest that the Northwest Plains technological organization is consistent with a generalized subsistence economy, and that prehistoric Plains populations were broad spectrum foragers, rather than specialists.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Kornfeld, Marcel, "Pull of the hills: Affluent foragers of the western Black Hills" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9510492.