Date of this Version
Environ Sci Pollut Res (2012); DOI 10.1007/s11356-012-1367-1
Feral swine are well known as environmentally destructive invasive animals in many areas around the world, where they degrade native habitats, harm rare plant and animal species, damage agricultural interests, and spread disease. We provide the first quantification of their potential as agents of disturbance at archaeological sites. Our study was conducted in south-central Florida at Avon Park Air Force Range, a base comprising over 40,000 ha and containing many archaeological sites. To determine the identifiable prevalence of feral swine disturbance, we examined 36 sites registered with the Florida State Historic Preservation Office and also eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Moreover, we evaluated the extent of swine disturbance at a prehistoric site of extraordinary significance to Florida’s prehistory, “Dead Cow.” Fifteen of the 36 NRHP-eligible sites (42%) had some level of swine disturbance, including 14 of 30 (47%) sites known to have artifacts within 20 cm of the surface (well within swine rooting depths). At the Dead Cow site, we documented disturbance at 74% of shovel test points. Sites with shallow artifact depositions appeared highly vulnerable to disturbance by feral swine, threatening destruction of artifact stratigraphy and provenience. Our observations likely are a minimal representation of accumulated damage. These irreplaceable sites tell the area’s land use story across the millennia. That they are under threat from feral swine should serve broad notice of potential threats that feral swine may pose to archaeological sites globally, making effective swine management imperative for site protection.