How Prevalent Was Ancestral Pueblo Garden Hunting? A Test Using Stable Isotopes & Rabbit Remains

Garden hunting is the capture of animals from agricultural plots for food, and it is a specific subsistence practice where humans simultaneously use gardens for food production and as animal traps. Here, Jonathan summarizes ongoing work in the Zooarchaeology Lab at the University of New Mexico, where he and a team of researchers are using stable isotope analysis to test whether rabbits fed on the same foods that Ancestral Pueblo people did. He demonstrates how rabbits—recovered from the Middle Rio Grande and Mesa Verde sites—relied on categorically different foods than humans, which raises important questions about the prevalence of garden hunting in the past. This work highlights the need to more thoroughly understand how farming impacted wild animals in the prehispanic American Southwest, how those impacts altered foraging practices, and how those practices changed or remained constant through time.