Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Walter E. Klippel

Committee Members

Paul W. Parmalee, Gerald F. Schroedl, David A. Etnier, Boyce N. Driskell


This research involves the faunal evidence from the site of Dust Cave in northwest Alabama. The site was occupied by prehistoric hunter-gatherers from 10,500 to 5,200 years ago. Dust Cave is significant to archaeological research because it represents one of the earliest known, stratified Late Paleoindian and Archaic deposits in the Southeast. Test excavations were conducted at the cave from 1989-1994 and the materials for this dissertation were collected during this period. Results of the faunal analysis indicate that changes occurred in resource selection, habitat exploitation, and natural environment through time. A shift from a concentration on avian species to mammalian species occurred from the Late Paleoindian to the Middle Archaic periods. In addition, aquatic resources, which were important to Late Paleoindian people at the cave, were much less important by the Middle Archaic. Utilization of species from open, ecotone, and closed habitats also changed through time. Closed habitat species, such as squirrels and raccoons, were much more important during the early occupations of the cave. Ecotone species, such as rabbits and whitetail deer became more important during later occupations. A comparison of the Dust Cave fauna to several other archaeological sites reveals that Dust Cave is the only site in which birds are a significant resource. The faunal assemblages from almost all of the other sites were predominantly composed of mammal remains. In addition, at Dust Cave the utilization of aquatic resources decreases through time while at other sites the use of aquatics increases. The Dust Cave faunal assemblage exhibits trends observed in other southeastern faunal assemblages such as an increase in the use of whitetail deer and an increase in species from ecotone habitats through time. In sum, information on faunal remains from Dust Cave has signified that Late Paleoindian and Archaic period hunter-gatherers living at the site practiced subsistence adaptations that were particular to regional habitat conditions.

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