Postprint version. Published in International Journal of Environmental Studies, Volume 70, Issue 3, January 1, 2013, pages 350-357.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1080/00207233.2013.800296.
The archaeological record represents a potentially critical source of information on past relationships between human hunters and populations of game animals. Archaeological research in the last 40–50 years has produced two alternative views on these relationships: one that Native people were knowledgeable, benevolent conservators of game and an alternative that suggests that they depleted and suppressed game populations through overhunting. A brief review of the history of this research shows that neither position is well-supported by empirical facts and that researchers have demonstrated a certain overzealousness in attempting to support one or the other of these interpretations. The facts are that after more than 13,000 years of non-conservative hunting, game populations were still extremely high across North America. This suggests that populations of Native hunters were relatively low, and that the former productivity of North American ecosystems may be under-estimated by modern conservators.
Social and Behavioral Sciences