Anthropology, Department of


First Advisor

Phil Geib

Second Advisor

William Belcher

Third Advisor

Alan Osborn

Date of this Version

Spring 5-1-2023


Zmijewski, Matthew. 2023. “The Woodcliff Experiment: Zooarchaeological Applications Using a Legacy and Cultural Resource Management (CRM) Collection.” Master’s Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Anthropology, Under Supervision of Professor Phil Geib. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2023

Copyright © 2023 Matthew Zmijewski


Legacy archaeological collections are often underutilized despite their valuable research utility. Archeologists might pass over these collections for research due to the age of recovery, along with the manner in which they were sampled and excavated. This thesis argues that significant archaeological research questions can be answered using these collections. To demonstrate their research potential, the author analyzes past subsistence behaviors and seasonality of occupations using the faunal remains from the Woodcliff site (25SD31). Woodcliff is a A.D. 1650-1750 Protohistoric Pawnee village located in eastern Nebraska. The faunal collection derived from excavations at the site constitute both a legacy and a CRM collection.

To create a picture of past animal-based diets, the analysis covers the zooarchaeological measures of Number of Identified Specimens (NISP), Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI), and Minimum Number of Elements (MNE). MNE is then related to a basic food utility index and butchery modifications to allow for a deeper understanding of which animals the Pawnee villagers most relied on for subsistence. Channel catfish annuli growth rings are measured to assess seasonality at the Woodcliff site, along with the presence of migratory animals in the faunal assemblage and bone tools used in seasonally specific activities.

The results of these analyses indicate that the Protohistoric Pawnee at the Woodcliff site subsisted on a diverse array of animals. Bison and elk formed the primary animal subsistence base, supplemented by the consumption of deer, canids, beaver, fish, and birds. The results of the seasonality research indicate that the Pawnee likely occupied the site during the spring and fall months when maize planting and harvesting activities likely occurred. This work concludes with three directions for future research using the Woodcliff assemblage.

Advisor: Phil Geib

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