Close-up a shell midden or deposit of oysters on the Damariscotta River in Maine

Bonnie Newsom
May 3, 2022
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Shell deposits
Bonnie Newsom

Close-up a shell midden or deposit of oysters on the Damariscotta River in Maine. Sites like this contain massive quantities of oysters harvested some 2,200–1,300 years ago and were key to forming the foundation for this study.

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. 

SI-157-2022

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