Ancient dog diets on the Pacific Northwest Coast: zooarchaeological and stable isotope modelling evidence from Tseshaht territory and beyond
journal contributionposted on 29.07.2021, 10:52 by Dylan Hillis, Iain McKechnie, Eric Guiry, Denis E St. Claire, Chris T Darimont
Abstract Domestic dogs are frequently encountered in Indigenous archaeological sites on the Northwest Coast of North America. Although dogs depended on human communities for care and provisioning, archaeologists lack information about the specific foods dogs consumed. Previous research has used stable isotope analysis of dog diets for insight into human subsistence (‘canine surrogacy’ model) and identified considerable use of marine resources. Here, we use zooarchaeological data to develop and apply a Bayesian mixing model (MixSIAR) to estimate dietary composition from 14 domestic dogs and 13 potential prey taxa from four archaeological sites (2,900–300 BP) in Tseshaht First Nation territory on western Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Two candidate models that best match zooarchaeological data indicate dogs predominantly consumed salmon and forage fish (35–65%), followed by nearshore fish (4–40%), and marine mammals (2–30%). We compared these isotopic data to dogs across the Northwest Coast, which indicated a pronounced marine diet for Tseshaht dogs and, presumably, their human providers. These results are broadly consistent with the canine surrogacy model as well as help illuminate human participation in pre-industrial marine food webs and the long-term role of fisheries in Indigenous economies and lifeways.