Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Walter E. Klippel, Paul W. Parmalee

Committee Members

Charles H. Faulkner, David A. Etnier


The journals of early European explorers and fur traders, as well as ethnographic records, document the integral part domestic dogs played in the village life and economy of the Plains Villagers in the Middle Missouri Subarea. Early travelers on the plains also remarked on the consumption of dog meat in association with certain rituals and ceremonies, and noted the use of dogs as an emergency food resource.

This study focuses on nearly 7000 large canid skeletal elements from six Plains Village sites in the Middle Missouri Subarea dating from approximately A.D. 1000 to 1840. Two indicators of the continued importance of domestic dogs in Native American economy are explored. They are the use of dogs for traction, and the use of dogs as food.

Osteoarthritic changes to joint substructures, particularly those of the shoulder and vertebral column - areas most directly subject to stress during load bearing or pulling, are identified in the canid assemblages. Further evidence of travois pulling is the multiple instances, in at least six Middle Missouri assemblages, of distortion and apparent stress fracturing of the cranial portion of the scapular blade, with at least partial healing and remodeling of the area of fracture. The dual role of these animals in village economy is illustrated by cutmarks indicative of disarticulation and filleting which appear on many of the affected scapulae.

At least three butchering operations or goals are indicated by cutmarks inflicted on the large canid skeletal materials. These include skinning, disarticulation, and filleting. Observed indicators of changing emphasis through time on dogs as a food resource include 1) a general increase in the frequency of cutmarks on skeletal elements, and 2) increases in the frequency of filleting marks, particularly those on the scapular blade and vertebrae. In the two early sites, cutmarks occur on approximately 15% of all large canid skeletal elements. In three Post Contact Coalescent sites, cutmarks frequencies, particularly filleting marks, increase to approximately 30%. In the Historic assemblage, cutmarks occur on approximately 40% of canid skeletal materials.

Cutmarks on canid bones from earlier Initial Middle Missouri assemblages indicate that dogs were regularly used as food throughout the Plains Village Period. Increases in cutmark frequencies on large canid skeletal remains through time in the Middle Missouri assemblages support a model of more intensive exploitation of large canids as a food resource during the Coalescent and Historic Periods.

During the Coalescent and Historic periods populations of native game animals were reduced or displaced due to the hunting pressures of the fur and hide trade, and traditional Native American subsistence patterns were disrupted by increased intertribal conflict and repeated waves of epidemic diseases which devastated Native American populations. In these later periods, domestic dogs became increasingly important as a food resource, as evidenced by patterns of greater cutmark frequencies, and increased filleting marks on canid bones.

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