Anthropology, Department of


Snowblind in the Desert Southwest: Moisture Islands, Ungulate Ecology, and Alternative Prehistoric Overwintering Strategies

Date of this Version



Journal of Anthropological Research (1993) 49(2): 135-164.


Copyright 1993, University of New Mexico. Used by permission.


Archaeologists concerned w th human adaptations in the American Southwest have generally assumed that plant resources dominated the diets of hunter-gathers and cultivators throughout most of the prehistoric records. Such a perspective has probably arisen as a result of the "tyranny of the ethnographic record," the dominant role of "lowland archaeology," and the lack of research that was guided by robust ecologically based theory. Optimal foraging theory, ungulate ecology, and animal and human physiology and nutrition suggest that upland areas, or "moisture islands," played a very significant role in the long-term evolutionary development of Archaic and Anasazi-Hohokam-Mopollon populations throughout this region. Extant ecological knowledge of upland faunal populations, e.g., mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep, and of their overwintering strategies is essential for our overall understanding of prehistoric life in this region.

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