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The prehistoric utilization of mollusc shell in the Arkansas and South Platte River basins of eastern Colorado




Calhoun, Emily Lauron, author
LaBelle, Jason M., advisor
Todd, Lawrence C., 1954-, committee member
Wohl, Ellen E., 1962-, committee member

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This comprehensive examination of prehistoric mollusc artifacts from the Arkansas and South Platte River basins of Eastern Colorado explores how material cultural is inherently linked to environmental conditions and cultural influences. These connections are explored via an in-depth investigation of form, function, and use through time of mollusc artifacts, the results of which are used to formulate the basis of two subsequent environmental and cultural investigations. The first uses the biological parameters required to support freshwater mollusc populations, based on the freshwater artifacts within the study assemblage, to argue that environmental conditions in the Eastern Colorado study area were most favorable for molluscs during the Late Holocene. The second examines the origins and mechanisms by which marine artifacts from the study assemblage entered the Arkansas and South Platte Basins and concludes that artifacts were primarily acquired via trade and exchange with peoples of the Southwest. This examination also argues that increasing cultural connectivity and interaction culminating during the Late Prehistoric would have allowed for various exotic marine artifacts to enter Eastern Colorado. The overarching conclusion of this study is that mollusc artifacts are used as items of personal adornment and are predominantly recovered from archaeological sites dating to the Late Prehistoric in Eastern Colorado. Additionally, this temporal affiliation is directly dependent on a variety of environmental and cultural influences. The results and arguments formulated within this study provide a baseline for future in-depth examinations of mollusc artifacts in Eastern Colorado.


2011 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.

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Eastern Colorado


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