Explaining Communal Hunting Strategies: An Analysis of Artiodactyl Drives and Trap Features Across the Great Basin
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Communal hunting of artiodactyls in the prehistoric Great Basin is a research topic with the potential to illuminate not only animal and human behavior but also cultural differences between groups. This research attempts to identify the contexts that encouraged people to cooperate with one another rather than operate as individuals or even compete for resources when hunting large game. To accomplish this, four hypotheses are tested to determine whether the natural environment was the main factor influencing the density of communal hunting strategies in seven different Great Basin study areas, or whether sociopolitical, cultural, or demographic variables have stronger correlations with the practice. The results indicate that factors other than the natural environment influence communal hunting behaviors. In particular, two cultural factors that were analyzed, ritual and ownership, have a positive correlation with communal artiodactyl hunting, while territoriality has a negative correlation. Areas with moderate human population densities (i.e., 10-20 people/sq. km) contain the most evidence of communal artiodactyl hunting, and once communal artiodactyl hunting peaks in the Middle Archaic, the frequency of the practice remains relatively constant thereafter before dropping considerably in the ethnohistoric period.