I just found this article I intended to post last October but somehow missed.
Topic hunter-gatherer behavior
By studying ancient landforms, archaeologists are uncovering evidence of a novel hunter-gatherer behavior
Many bays have been lost to development, but Johns Bay, located in Allendale County, South Carolina, is still viable and filled with water. Thousands of years ago, Archaic hunter-gatherers came to these pond-like bodies of water in the fall or winter to process large, wild birds that would migrate to the bays seasonally.
(Courtesy Christopher R. Moore/SRARP)
A steady warm breeze barely ruffles the high-rise canopy of tall, straight pine trees. Diffuse sunlight filters down to the ground. Underfoot, maypop vines, flaunting fancy lavender blossoms, slyly tangle with poison ivy on a crunchy carpet of pine needles patched with peek-a-boo white sand. A bird chirps. A gnat bites. A vehicle whirs along a distant unseen road. At first take it could all pass for an unremarkable stretch of Southeastern woods. But to archaeologists of the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program (SRARP), this is Flamingo Bay. It’s a shining example of an ancient landform, once a pond-like body of accumulated rainwater with the nontechnical name “Carolina bay,” where they are finding new knowledge of Middle Archaic hunter-gatherer sustenance, industry, and lifestyles.
Mark J. Brooks, an archaeologist at the University of South Carolina and director of SRARP, trudges across the slight rise of sand that surrounds the bay as he gestures toward the scattered handful of blue, white, and orange flags stuck in the dry ground. Only the center of Flamingo Bay occasionally holds water these days. The flags indicate recent investigation. Brooks says, “From the samples we have taken we know that this area had a major concentration of food-processing activity. We have evidence that small groups of people returned here repeatedly, every fall or early winter.”
The archaeological record that Brooks and his colleagues have uncovered shows that hunter-gatherers at this bay, and perhaps others, stood notably apart from other prehistoric groups in their use of natural resources. In pre-agrarian times here, as elsewhere, people typically banded together to forage for food. They gravitated toward forests, plentifully supplied with game, deer being the main meat in their diet, and toward oceans, rivers, and streams for a steady harvest of fish and other seafood.
Brooks, though, and Christopher R. Moore, also a University of South Carolina and SRARP archaeologist, have discovered a sophisticated departure from these patterns. They have found artifacts along the edges of Carolina bays that are specifically associated with a well-organized system of preserving the meat of large migratory birds. Evidence shows that every autumn or winter people would return to the bay site, which reliably provided all the raw materials—including slow-combusting hickory nut shells, not practical for fuel but excellent for the smoking process—needed to stockpile great amounts of food. Underlying this activity would have been an understanding on the part of these prehistoric peoples that birds would arrive at Carolina bays at particular times of year and in great numbers.
By Margaret Shakespeare, a freelance writer living in New York City and Long Island.