Accumulation of oyster, other shellfish, animal bone and artifacts

Kevin McBride
May 3, 2022
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Small pit of archeological materials
Kevin McBride

Small “pit feature” or accumulation of oyster, other shellfish, animal bone and artifacts in Rhode Island dated to 100–500 years ago. Sites like this show the full range of sites used in the study, with this representing the smaller end of accumulation of oysters.

A new global study of Indigenous oyster fisheries co-led by Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History anthropologist Torben Rick and Temple University anthropologist and former Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow Leslie Reeder-Myers shows that oyster fisheries were hugely productive and sustainably managed on a massive scale over hundreds and even thousands of years of intensive harvest. The study’s broadest finding was that long before European colonizers arrived, the Indigenous groups in these locations harvested and ate immense quantities of oysters in a manner that did not appear to cause the bivalves’ populations to suffer and crash. 


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