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Editor's Page . . . .
An Interview with Elizabeth S. Wing . .
A Biological Introduction to the Prehistoric
Procurement of the Strombus Gigas
by William F. Keegan . .
The Salvage of John M. Goggin's Panamanian
Collection: A Personal Tribute
by Howard H. Hirschhorn . .
This issue features an interview with Dr. Elizabeth S. Wing of the
Florida State Museum in Gainesville. In keeping with our zooarchaeological
theme, we are pleased to include an article on the procurement of queen conch
shells by William Keegan, a graduate student at UCLA. Keegan has done con-
siderable work in the Turks and Caicos Islands during the past several years.
Effective this month, the price of back issues will be $5.00 per issue
and $7.00 each for special publications. This price includes the cost of
mailing and postage.
The Florida Anthropological Society has received a number of cash con-
tributions within the past year, and the following contributors include those
unintentionally omited in the previous issue. These contributors are Archae-
ological Consultants, Inc., Adelaide Bullen, Irving Eyster, George Luer,
Mitchell Hope, and Col. Donald H. Randell.
My Work Among the Florida Seminoles is a new book published by the
University Presses of Florida. The book is in handcover and 121 p;.ges in
length. Edited by Harry Kersey, the book is a valuable document of James L.
Glenn's work as a Seminole Indian agent in Florida during the 1930s. This
book will be a welcome addition to the library of anyone interested in
Seminole Indian studies.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH S. WING
In October, 1981, Jeanie L. McGuire conducted an interview with Dr.
Elizabeth S. Wing, Curator of Zooarchaeology at the Florida State Museum in
Gainesville, Florida. In June, 1982, David Allerton conducted a second inter-
view with Dr. Wing. An edited version of these interviews appear below.
FA: What is zooarchaeology?
EW: As the name implies or attempts to imply, it is the combination of zoology
and archaeology. It combines these two fields in a way that studies the
animal remains that were associated or used by human beings through time.
FA: What are the differences or similarities of zooarchaeology with pale-
EW: Certainly, they do overlap because as we get into earlier and earlier
human occupations you are talking about extinct animals, and paleontology
is the study of extinct earlier animals or lifeforms. The goals of paleo-
ecology and paleontology are to understand natural deposits, while in
zooarchaeology, although some of the remains are natural, most of them
have accumulated through human intervention. It would be comparable to
a paleontological study of a bear's den or a carnivore's lair. However,
there are differences: in zooarchaeological research we have more than
the subsistence use of animals, we have ritual use and domestication.
FA: What kind of background should a zooarchaeologist possess?
THE FLORIDA ANTHROPOLOGIST
VOL. 35 NO. 2
EW: In order to have the training in zooarchaeology, I think you have to be
fairly well rounded in anthropology and in zoology, particularly taxonomy,
osteology, comparative anatomy, functional morphology and things of that
sort. Also, a knowledge of ecology as well as the various aspects of
anthropology, such as archaeology, the ethnographic record concerning
human utilization of animals, and the technology to process these animals
FA: What should be the relationship between the zooarchaeologist and the
EW: I do think that if the zooarchaeologist is not the one excavating the
site then there has to be, at the very least, a close cooperation be-
tween the zooarchaeologist and the archaeologist. It has to be a coop-
erative effort, really a symbiotic one. The archaeologist is excavating
the data on which the zooarchaeologist bases his study while the data
derived from the zooarchaeological research will aid the archaeologist
in his interpretations. Some people think it is best if the person
working with the faunal material also does the excavation. However, if
the zooarchaeologist's interest requires the handling of faunas from a
great variety of sites, limitations in time make it impossible for one
individual to excavate and analyze the full array of a site. If the
cooperation is there, and the zooarchaeologist can explain what he needs
to complete the study, then the research can be very fruitful for both.
FA: What should the zooarchaeologist expect from the field archaeologist?
EW: The zooarchaeologist should expect a map of where the site is located,
a map of the excavations, a description of the procedures used to collect
the material, and an evaluation as to the cultural associations of each
FA: What should the zooarchaeologist provide the field archaeologist?
EW: The zooarchaeologist should provide a detailed list of species that
were identified, with a basic quantification of species and of each
discrete element, as well as a calculation of minimum number of indi-
FA: Would you say that the zooarchaeologist needs to have input into the
EW: It helps so much to be able to have some input into the planning and
strategy of an archaeological project. Archaeologists are slowly coming
to the realization that more can be accomplished with cooperation started
at the beginning.
FA: What should the field excavator be aware of when collecting faunal
EW: The primary consideration that may bias a sample is the screen size.
Fine screening can be labor intensive and should not be used in every
site. There are many sites where fine screening would be a waste of
time in terms of recovering animal remains. Archaeologists should test
to see if they need to use a fine screen and/or flotation for adequate
recovery. There are quite a few sites, particularly Florida estuary sites
and sites close to marshes, where people were apparently using mass catch-
ing techniques like netting to harvest very, very small fishes. In these
instances, it is necessary to use fine screen and flotation as not to
bias the interpretation. Obviously, we need to have the very best re-
covery possible in order to get a full representation of the fauna
FA: Are there any other sources of bias?
EW: I think that it is important that some ph tests be conducted on the soil
from a site because bone, being largely calcium, will dissolve in acidic
soils. Neutral or barely acidic soil may cause destruction of the bone
of juvenile animals. The loss of bones of juvenile individuals could
affect interpretation by ascribing harvesting to a season where juveniles
are absent from the available fauna.
FA: What do you consider an adequate sample?
EW: This is a difficult thing to state because I think that it really has
to be determined at each individual site. One measure that is used for
adequacy is derived from the representation of different species. If
you graphed the number of individual animals against number of species,
at the point where the curve levels off one would say that was adequate
at least in terms of reflecting the array of species used. Now for this
general area and the circum-Caribbean area, an adequate sample includes
about 200 individual animals.
FA: Do you have figures on volume of soil excavated to derive this amount
of faunal information?
EW: No, because sites are so different in their concentration. A very rough
figure for adequacy is that 15,000 to 30,000 identifiable bones will give
200 to 250 individuals.
FA: Do you consider the 25 cm column sample adequate?
EW: There again it depends on the bone concentration as sites differ. There
is no easy answer.
FA: What types of information can be acquired from a faunal sample?
EW: We would first make a species list consisting of identifications to the
lowest possible taxon. Then we do a quantification of the bones of each
category. At this stage, special note is made of any marks such as from
butchering. Next we calculate the minimum number of individuals (MNI).
Then we weigh and measure the bones. These figures are used to provide
possible usable meat weights. These are the basic methods of faunal
FA: MNIs are arbitrary units of measure. What do they tell the archae-
EW: Well, all the measures of quantification are relative terms that shouldn't
be interpreted too liberally. I think it reflects a measure of relative
abundance. There is a lot of controversy about MNIs in zooarchaeological
circles. Most of the objections elicited by minimum number of indivi-
duals comes from people who are working with mammalian faunas where most
of the animals have the same number of elements so that the counts approx-
imate the MNI and this is not the case with faunas that have different
numbers of identifiable elements. While acknowledging the pitfalls of
MNI calculation, it might be important to know relatively how many ani-
mals, juveniles, adults and males of the species are present to make a
determination of domestication. It is important to eliminate some of
the bias that results from the inclusion in the faunal assemblage of
species such as garfish which have hundreds of identifiable skeletal
elements. The MNI count is the only way I know by which this can be
FA: What about usable weight?
EW: If one recovers a deer and a catfish, those would be given equal value
in terms of MNI but obviously the meat weight that potentially could
be provided is very different. It just gives you another basic piece
of data to be used for interpretation to complement MNI information.
FA: Is all the meat estimated considered as used?
EW: Not at all. That is the purpose for estimating meat weight in two ways:
one way estimates the meat that could have adhered to the bones identi-
fied and the other way makes the assumption that those bones represented
whole animals that were completely eaten. Obviously you have to make
some judgement as to which is the most logical, or failing that, you
have to provide the range of possibilities that occurred.
FA: Are you using computers in your work?
EW: Yes, we have a data retrival system in which all our data are recorded.
We also use computers for statistical analysis. We use the computer to
generate regression formulas which correlate weight and size of bones
with body weight. By using the computer-generated formulae we can
determine the potential amount of food available from the size and
weight of the represented animal. Of course, this is very valuable in
studying living habits and subsistence patterns of the early inhabitants
of the coastal regions.
FA: You do have a remarkable photographic reference system in your lab. Is
this a new idea in zooarchaeology?
EW: The idea is not new but the method is different. This procedure is an
index to our comparative bone collection. When a researcher is trying
to identify an animal from a bone,he or she must match the bone to an
existing sample. It takes many hours to look through all of the trays
and boxes of collected materials. There are publications available
that contain reproductions or drawings, but they are not always to
scale or reproduced from different angles. The photographic atlas we
have developed was based on accurate studies and used 9,000 excellent
black and white glossy photographs with good gray areas of 552 species
of fish. The photographer was very precise and used a magnifying lens.
The photographs are to scale and there are two views of every element
with the same view used for each element. A researcher can compare his
piece of bone to the photographs in the atlas. After making a visual
identification he can then go to the exact physical sample in the lab
for a final comparative identification. This photographic atlas is
not a panacea, but rather is just a guide to the actual collection.
B. Lutjanus cyanopterus (cubera snapper).
C. Sphyraena barracuda
Figure 2. Examples of photographs from the photographic atlas for
the comparative bone collection showing selected fish
skeletal elements. Each photograph shows to scale the
tooth patterns on the premaxilla (upper) and dentary
FA: Have you considered publishing this photographic atlas so other labs
EW: Yes, the thought has been considered. We hope to publish a part of the
photographic atlas. The reproduction of the photographs has to be per-
fect. Otherwise, there is no use in doing it.
FA: What are the geographical locations of the site samples currently re-
posing in the Florida State Museum Zooarchaeology Laboratory?
EW: We have faunal remains from roughly 400 sites in the Southeastern United
States as well as the circum-Caribbean and Ecuador and Peru. About 75%
of the materials have been catalogued and are on file cards for reference.
FA: Are you seeing patterns in these Caribbean sites?
EW: Yes, we can predict some of the species used in different habitats and
at specific time periods. This information is derived from studies of
species composition. However, more exploration and examination of the
historic association of the findings is needed.
FA: Do you have any specific goals with this research?
EW: Our main task is to enlarge the samples in order to understand better
the subsistence patterns of the early inhabitants of the Caribbean coastal
areas. Research is also being aimed at improving our recovery techniques
so that hypotheses can be better tested.
There is also an effort to incorporate the study of vertebrates, inverte-
brates and fishing methods to see the whole range of animal life and how
it contributed to diet, gathering techniques, and exactly where man con-
ducted his hunting and fishing.
FA: What do you see as the future research goals for you and your lab tech-
EW: I am also interested in the domestic animals we have today and their
link with ancestral animals. We are making an effort to establish a
sequence of animal domestication in the New World. For example, when
and under what circumstances was herding established? Why were certain
animals selected to come on the ships to the New World? What problems
were encountered? We need to study the European domestic animals before
they were brought to the New World and then compare them to those of the
New World. We need to investigate how they have changed under these new
conditions. This type of research is important to understand stock
breeding and animal husbandry in connection with early management
practices. This would help us understand better our contemporary sub-
sistence herding practices. There has been a great deal of research
done by Europeans about their domestic animals, but no follow-up into
the New World phase. I can imagine that there must have been a toll
taken on the animals in crossing the Atlantic and, of course, the New
World environment was different. This research is becoming possible as
more and larger samples become available. I am encouraging students to
get involved in this area of study now.
FA: Olsen states that one of the definitions of domestication is that
species will exhibit a morphological change from wild to domestic?
Do you agree?
EW: Very definitely, once they are domesticated you can see differences.
Domestication takes a long time. You wouldn't be able to detect the
earliest stages of domestication.
FA: Does herding produce analyzable differences in faunal osteological
EW: In other words, based on the bone sample, how do we recognize herding
from hunting? It's not easy. Basically the domestic animals tend to
be more variable than wild populations. European domestic animals have
shown an interesting trend toward decrease in size. It does not neces-
sarily follow that there is a decrease in size but it might be something
to look for. Another clue would be the spread of domestic species into
environmental niches where they would not naturally occur. Hunting
situations are not conducive for the recovery of newborn specimens,
whereas sites with domestication would be expected to have a higher
recovery of newborn animals.
FA: How did your professional career begin?
EW: My father, Henry F. Schwarz, was a professor at Wellesley, a women's
college,and he thought that women should have the opportunity to be
professionals. When I was in the sixth grade he wanted me to take
French and German to prepare for my Ph.D. Since we spoke German in our
family, I took French in school. You must remember that I am from a
generation that did as your father said. I guess there was never any
doubt that I would get my Ph.D.
I was always interested in zoology. When I was in high school I was
one of three women who worked at Harvard in the Museum of Comparative
Zoology during the summer. I spent one summer as a volunteer and the
other two, I was paid 75 cents an hour.
In undergraduate school at Mt. Holyoke, I was told I would never succeed
unless I selected a field in biology such as medical research, biochem-
istry or cancer research. I was encouraged to stay in a traditional
field. However, I was really interested in the study of the whole animal.
In graduate school, I decided to study whole animal biology and ecology.
I was advised to attend the University of Chicago or the University of
Florida for my advanced work. I visited the University of Chicago first.
While on the campus I was told that the tires on my parked car might
be stolen and, that in general, parking my car on campus involved cer-
tain risks. Because of that, I decided to attend the University of
Florida. It wasn't a very rational decision, but it turned out to be
just what I needed. From there the specialization fell into place as
I went on to complete my doctoral work at the University of Florida,
graduating in 1962.
FA: How did you manage to finish a doctoral program, develop a career and
raise a family?
EW: At times it was worrisome, but with the help of my husband, James, who
is a farmer and ceramist, we shared in the physical care of the children.
We managed. Another benefit was my mother who was able to help us when
we needed her during the first eight years of my career. I worked only
part time which allowed me time to be home with my family a great deal.
This was very important when the children were small.
FA: How did you find a part-time job in research?
EW: I didn't exactly find it. I wrote a grant and was given the funding
which meant I could control my own working hours. When I had asked for
part-time work as a researcher so that I could have time with my family,
I was told that part-time jobs were not available. That didn't make
much sense to me because those animal bones had been in the ground for
hundreds or thousands of years, and whether I analyzed them on a part-
time or full-time basis, the work was still going to get done.
It is unfortunate that half-time jobs are not available as regular staff
positions so that young people who need to raise a family can have time
to do both jobs well.
FA: Can you give a profile of a zooarchaeologist from your experience work-
ing with students?
EW: These are only observations, not proven findings. Some have more talent
than others. Those who have artistic abilities seem to le.rn faunal
identification faster. They seem to think in shape and fo-m more easily.
Also, there seems to be a strength from people who work picture puzzles
because they also think in forms and visualize words in different shapes.
However, anyone can learn zooarchaeology who has the desire and interest
and is curious. In the beginning, identifying masses of bone through
comparison can be overwhelming. But once you learn basic taxonomy and
become familiar with the basic characteristics of skeletons, it is like
recognizing your friends.
FA: Do you have any advice for those people who are interested in starting
a comparative collection?
EW: Anyone interested in starting a comparative collection should learn all
the regulations in the law that govern the collection of animals. There
are a lot of animals that are protected by law and even if you pick them
off the street you are in violation of the law unless you have a permit.
After collecting the specimen, you should get the usual measurements.
Here at the museum we additionally weigh all the different organs and
Actual separation of the skeleton can be achieved in two ways: one is
to flesh out the carcass and then use demerstid beetles to strip the re-
maining flesh; the other method is to macerate the flesh off. You can
use a combination of the two and an ultrasonic cleaner at the end of
the process to clean the bone from any remaining flesh. I think if I
were to start a comparative collection I would find out what already
established collection is in the region and try to augment it rather than
start a new one due to the time and cost considerations in preparing the
FA: What is the minimum number of skeletons of one species that is needed
to give adequate results?
EW: You want to have a sample that consists of different age categories,
size range, and sex. I think because different animals look so differ-
ent that ten specimens of each species of mammal and twenty of each
species of fish should be sufficient. Although, it depends on your needs.
FA: Do you know how many comparative specimens are stored here?
EW: I recall that there are about 3800 specimens in the zooarchaeology lab.
FA: Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of The Florida
EW: I want the people to be aware of zooarchaeology and that there is a
faunal collection at the Florida State Museum in Gainesville. The
collection is available to serious students to come and visit and see
what is here. The lab is to be used providing our procedures are follow-
ed. We are very anxious to cooperate with serious research people. The
lab is not open to the general public. Visits need to be arranged with
advanced notice. The Florida State Museum is located on the University
of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida. To make an appointment to
visit the Zooarchaeology research facilities, call 904-392-1721 and ask
for Dr. Elizabeth Wing.
Figure 3. A view of the comparative collection in
the zooarchaeological lab at the Florida
Selected Bibliography of Elizabeth S. Wing
1963a Vertebrate Remains from the Wash Island Site. The Florida
1963b Vertebrates from the Jungerman and Goodman Sites near the East
Coast of Florida. Contributions of the Florida State Museum,
Social Sciences 10:51-60.
1965 Animal Bones from Marco Island. The Florida Anthropologist
1966 Fossil Skates and Rays of Florida. The Plaster Jacket No. 2.
1969 Vertebrate Remains Excavated from San Salvador Island, Bahamas.
Caribbean Journal of Science 9:25.
1972 Identification and Interpretation of Faunal Remains. In The White
Marl Site in Jamaica, Report of the 1964 Robert R. Howard Excavation,
edited by J. Silverberg. Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin-
1973 Notes on the Faunal Remains Excavated from St. Kitts, West Indies.
Caribbean Journal of Science 13:253-255.
1974 Vertebrate Faunal Remains. In Excavation of an Early S'ell Midden
on Isla Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico by E. W. Andrews IV et al.
New Orleans: Middle American Research Institute.
1975 Animal Remains from Lubaantun. In Lubaantun, A Classic Maya Realm,
edited by Norman Hammond. Cambridge: Peabody Museum.
1977a Subsistence Systems in the Southeast. The Florida Anthropologist
1977b Prehistoric Subsistence Patterns of the Central Andes and Adjacent
Coast and the Spread in the Use of Domestic Animals. National
Science Foundation Report. Soc. 74-20634.
1977c Floral and Faunal Analyses: Vertebrates. In Prehistoric Ecology
at Patarata 52, Veracruz, Mexico, edited by B. L. Stark. Nash-
ville: Vanderbilt University Press.
1977d Origins of Domestication. In Origins of Agriculture, edited by
Charles A. Reed. The Hague: Mouton.
1977e Factors Influencing Exploitation of Marine Resources. In The Sea
in the Pre-Columbian World, edited by E. P. Benson. Washington:
1978a Use of Dogs for Food: An Adaptation to the Coastal Environment.
In Prehistoric Coastal Adaptations, edited by B. L. Stark and
B. Voorhies. New York: Academic Press.
1978b Subsistence at the McLarty Site. The Florida Anthropologist
1980a Faunal Remains. In Guitarrero Cave: Early Man in the Andes,
edited by Thomas F. Lynch. New York: Academic Press.
1980b A Guide to the Fauna of San Lorenzo, Tenochtitlan. In In the
Land of the Olmecs by Michael D. Coe. Austin: University of
N.D. Hunting and Fishing at Santa Luisa. Paper delivered at the 73rd
Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Mexico
Elizabeth S. Wing with Co-authors
With C. Swift
1968 Fossil Bony Fishes from Florida. The Plaster Jacket No. 7.
With C. A. Hoffman, Jr., and C. E. Ray
1968 Vertebrate Remains from Indian Sites on Antigua, West Indies.
Caribbean Journal of Science 8:123-129.
With Norman Hammond
1974 Fish Remains in Archaeology: A Comment on Casteel. American
With A. B. Brown
1979 Paleonutrition: Method and Theory in Prehistoric Foodways.
New York: Academic Press.
With D. Steadman
1980 Vertebrate Faunal Remains from Dzibilchaltun, Yucatan. In
Excavations at Dzibilchaltun, Yucatan, by E. W. Andrews IV and
E. W. Andrews V. New Orleans: Middle American Research Institute.
With L. Jill Loucks
N.D. Vertebrate Faunal Remains Excavated from the Grenada Site (8Dall).
With Elizabeth J. Reitz
N.D. Prehistoric Fishing in the Caribbean. (In press.)
A BIOLOGICAL INTRODUCTION TO THE PREHISTORIC PROCUREMENT
OF THE STROMBUS GIGAS
William F. Keegan
The Queen Conch, Strombus gigas, figures prominently in the middens of
prehistoric cultures of the Caribbean and Florida. The utilization of this
natural resource by those populations recently has received the attention
archaeologists (Hoffman 1967; Armstrong 1979; Keegan 1981; Reiger 1979, 1981;
Carr and Reiger 1980). To date, an important aspect of that utilization has
been neglected; prior to the use of S. gigas as a food or tool source it must
be obtained from the environment.
Only recently have biologists become concerned with the study of Strombus
gigas. Their attention has been necessitated by increasing overexploitation
of this important food resource. Much of this new knowledge is not readily
accessible to archaeologists.
The purpose of this article is to present specific information related
to aspects of resource procurement. The majority of that information derives
from studies undertaken in the Caribbean, but it should prove useful to
archaeologists working in Florida. Three aspects of Strombus gigas anatomy
and ecology will be considered. These are ontogeny (life history), spatial
distribution, and meat removal procedures.
The ontogeny of Strombus gigas is characterized by recognizable changes
in shell morphology over a relatively short period of time (Alcolado 1976;
Hesse 1977). These changes should provide evidence of resource selection and
use by prehistoric peoples.
All natural resources are nonrandomly distributed in the environment.
Their distributions conform to the geological history of the area (inorganic
resources) and the location of habitats and niches (organic resources). The
procurement of organic resources such as Strombus gigas occurs when .human
behavior articulates with the animal's behavior in a way that permits capture.
To obtain S. gigas humans must have visited coastal habitats which supported
S. gigas populations. Inferences about the time and energy expended during
procurement activities can be generated by defining those habitats.
The final stage of resource procurement is the removal of the edible meat
from its hard support structures. The anatomy of S. gigas limits the number
of ways that this can be accomplished. The method of procurement should pro-
vide evidence of time and energy expenditure, and the relationship of shell
remains at a site to the subsequent procedures of artifact manufacture and use.
Strombus gigas is a large, herbivorous marine mollusc of the Class
Gastropoda. Five species of Strombus are common in the Caribbean area so
scientific nomenclature (Genus species) should be used in reporting shell
VOL. 35 NO. 2 THE FLORIDA ANTHROPOLOGIST JUNE 1982
OUTER LIP / /
Figures 1 and 2. Strombus gigas shell. Fig. 1 (left) shows external structure.
Fig. 2 (right) shows internal structure along a longitudinal
section of the shell and illustrates the spiral coiling of the
78 CONCH SHELLS
remains. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the external and internal structures of
the S. gigas shell.
In Strombus gigas the sexes are separate with internal fertilization
following copulation. A mature female lays several egg masses per breeding
season each containing approximately 500,000 eggs. Upon hatching, the sngil
enters a twenty-eight day veliger planktonicc) stage. At the end of the
veliger stage the snail (about 2 mm in length) settles to the substrate where
it continues to increase in size by secreting shell material along its outer
whorl. After two and one-half years the snail has approached full shell
length (18 to 26 cm), and begins to develop its broad flaring outer lip. It
requires approximately three months to complete the outer lip; after that
time the lip is increased only in thickness and the outer margin begins to
pit and erode. The snail reaches sexual maturity after the outer lip has
begun to thicken, between three and three and one-half years old. The mean
longevity of Strombus gigas is six years (Berg 1976), and the outer lip con-
tinues to thicken until the snail dies.
Three distinct shell morphologies may be recognized during the growth
sequence (Figures 3 and 4): shells prior to lip development ("juvenile"),
Figure 3. Growth sequence of the Strombus gigas shell from about one year
through the secretion of the ftlaring lip at about three and
Figue 3.Groth squece o th Strmbusqigs shll rom bou oneyea
thrughth sereionof hefl rl _gip t bou treean
U .'_ -. .i.
Figure 4. Strombus igas morphological types. Left to right: full, thick
lip ("old"), full, thin lip ("adult"), pre-lip ("juvenile").
shells with a broad, thin, flaring lip ("adult"), and shells with a thick,
flaring lip ("old") (Alcolado 1976). These stages are recognized by the
present inhabitants of the Caribbean, and there is evidence that similar
distinctions were made by prehistoric peoples. We will follow Alcolado's
(1976) designation of these morphological states (juvenile, adult, old),
although better names could probably be suggested.
The Use of Morphological Differences
Differences in the morphology of shells found on a site can be used to
distinguish patterns of human behavior. If prehistoric peoples used S. gigas
as a food source alone, we would expect the frequency of occurrence for each
morphological stage at a site to reflect the frequency with which that stage
occurs in the environment. This is simply a statement of sampling theory.
A random sample of a bounded population should be representative of that
population, within certain limits. We can never be certain that a random
sample is truly representative of the population, but we can check our
assumptions against statistically defined probabilities. Unfortunately we
are not at a stage where statistical techniques can be employed, but evidence
from which inferences may reasonably be developed can be suggested.
The definition of the expected environmental frequency of occurrence
for each morphological stage is the first problem. Hesse (1977:18) reports
that the ratio of juvenile to adult plus old S. gigas was 3:1 at her study
area. The ratios at Alcolado's (1976:Fig. 3) study areas are more complex,
with frequencies varying over time and space. Contributing to this problem
are the activities of modern fishermen;their taking of primarily adult and
old S. gigas could have affected those reported ratios.
At the Pine Cay site in the Turks and Caicos Islands, thirty-four com-
plete Strombus gigas shells were recovered during excavation (Keegan 1981).
Of those, 54 percent (n=20) were of the pre-lip stage (juvenile), 38 percent
(n=13) were of the thick lip stage (old), and only one was of the thin lip
stage (adult). Approximately fifty feet from the northern boundary of the
site, 23 complete adult S. gigas shells were found in a single pile. No other
morphological state was present in that collection. The apparent exclusion
of adult S. gigas shells from the site has been interpreted as indicating
that those shells in morphological stages not intended for further use were
discarded away from the site.
The frequency of each morphological stage at the Pine Cay site does not
appear to conform to Hesse's and Alcolado's descriptions of environmental
frequencies. In addition to the possible skewing of their frequency dis-
tributions by modern fishing practices, two factors may have affected the
frequencies at the site. Hesse (1977:18) reports that the average size of
juveniles was ten centimeters at her study area. At the Pine Cay site no
shells shorter than eleven centimeters were found. Whether this represents
selection behavior cannot be determined without additional evidence. Even,
if this does reflect selection criteria we could revise the expected fre-
quencies to determine if other morphological stages also were selected. For
example, if we were to accept Hesse's 3:1 ratio as characteristic of the
environmental occurrence of each stage, then by excluding shells shorter than
eleven centimeters we could determine the expected relationship between the
remaining shells. This might be 1:1:1, in which case each stage should be
equally represented at the site. Deviations from that expected relationship
would indicate that additional selection had taken place.
The second problem is the determination of which morphological stage
shell fragments originally comprised. At least 155 other shells were repre-
sented at the Pine Cay site by fragments (minimum number of individuals based
on the occurrence of spires with apex). It may not be possible to determine
which stage they represent, but the close scrutiny of shell remains during
excavation should solve this problem.
The relative frequency of complete shells from the Pine Cay site has
been presented because it appears to represent shells selected for artifact
manufacture. This assumption is supported by evidence that juvenile and old
shells are better suited for artifact manufacture than adult shells (Keegan
1981). However, this assumption deserves further testing before it is accepted
If we assume that the frequency differences at the Pine Cay site are
significant, a tentative conclusion can be suggested: adult shells were
discarded away from the site because they were of no further use, while
juvenile and old shells were brought to the site for modification into arti-
facts. This conclusion suggests that S. gigas shell remains should be treated
as evidence of artifact manufacture, and not just as refuse from food pro-
curement. Material evidence of selection, modification, and use is available
if we examine shell remains from this perspective. Our present inability to
accurately characterize the expected frequencies of environmental occurrence
should not prevent the close examination of shell remains at archaeological
sites. Fine distinctions are as yet not possible, but major deviations can
A final conclusion based on differences in shell morphology can be
suggested. Armstrong's (1979) attempt to demonstrate that sections of the
columella were used as tools by the prehistoric inhabitants of St. Kitts
provides an example of why procurement must be considered. Armstrong noted
differences in the composition of modern and prehistoric middens. This led
him to propose that the apparent overrepresentation of columella sections at
the prehistoric middens supports the belief that they were used as tools.
However, Armstrong failed to consider that different shell morphologies,
resulting from differences in procurement, could be responsible for that
apparent overrepresentation. His conclusions,and through his use of anology
the conclusions of Reiger (1979:136),,should be considered unproven (see
Keegan n.d., for a complete review of this and other problems with Armstrong's
Since procurement preceded artifact manufacture we should first ask,
what materials were available for artifact manufacture, and how should they
be distributed at the site?
Strombus gigas is commonly found in large numbers in most Caribbean
coral water areas and the southeastern coast of Florida (Warmke and Abbott
1961:88; Little 1965; Percharde 1970; see Figure 5). Reiger (1981:5) states
that living S. gigas are rarely, if ever, found along the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Figure 5. Distribution of Strombus gigas after Warmke and Abbott (1961:320).
Historically, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas, the Grenadines,
and Los Roques-Las Aves (Venezuelan Islands) collect sufficient quantities
of S. gigas to sustain export industries (Brownell and Berg 1978). It is
believed that all inhabited Caribbean islands have had sufficient S. gigas
populations to support local fishing if not export industries.
One of the major Strombus gigas fishing grounds is the Caicos Bank,
located inside the arc of the Caicos Islands. Since 1900, well over 100
million S. gigas have been exported from these islands (Doran 1958; Hesse
1977). It was not until the early 1970's that a decline in the S. gigas
population became noticeable. The magnitude of these figures suggests that
the prehistoric inhabitants had an inexhaustible supply, especially since
breeding and spawning pairs are often found in water below ten meters.
The Pan-Caribbean distribution of Strombus gigas does not mean that all
prehistoric sites had equal access to this resource. The microenvironment
(habitat or niche) must be considered when defining resource availability.
Strombus gigas apparently prefers a grass bed or mixed algae habitat
with a sand substrate, but the snail has been encountered on a wide variety
of substrates including coral rubble and coral reef. S. gigas has been found
in abundance on manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme) and turtle grass
(Thalassia testudinum), probably because these grasses support rich growths
of epiphytes on which S. gigas feeds (Randall 1964:255-7; Hesse 1977; see
also Taylor 1960).
Prior to commercial fishing, S. gigas was commonly found in very shallow
water (less than 2 meters). On the presently uninhabited East Caicos, Turks
and Caicos Islands, approximately 150 S. gigas were observed along 400 meters
of beach in water less than one meter deep in 1979.
Strombus gigas as a Food Source
Sears and Sullivan (1978:22-3) have suggested that conch may have been
a motivating factor in the original colonization of the Caicos Islands during
prehistoric times. Characteristics of this snail as a food source support
The conch's muscular foot constitutes the edible portion of the snail.
When S. gigas reaches full shell length (18-26 cm) there is approximately
one-quarter pound of firm white meat available. The meat is an excellent
source of protein, being 74 percent by dry weight.
The meat can be prepared in several ways. It can be eaten raw or cooked,
or it can be dried for future consumption. If the meat is eaten fresh the
tough skin must be removed. That can easily be accomplished by peeling it
with one's teeth or a sharp implement.
The modern method of drying conch involves several steps. After the
snail is taken from its shell the viscera are removed and a hole is made in
the meat. The meat is then bruised by pounding it flat so the muscle is
stretched and the meat dries evenly. If the meat is not bruised it becomes
rubbery as it dries (Lee Penn, pers. com.). The flattened meat is hung to
dry for about one week. Dried conch lasts up to six weeks, and it probably
provided an excellent food source during inter-island travel.
As with most animals that were used as both a food and tool source the
flesh must be removed prior to the modification of the hard support structures.
Strombus gigas shells from prehistoric sites in the Caribbean have a small,
almost circular hole (about 1-2 cm in diameter) in the last complete whorl of
the spire. This hole is located on the whorl above, and between, the last two
complete nodules of the body whorl, which occur just prior to the outer lip
(Figure 6). The hole was probably made by striking this location with the
apex of another complete S. gigas shell (DeBooy 1915:78-79; Hoffman 1967:36;
Keegan 1981:73; cf. Milanich and Fairbanks 1980:244, who note a similar hole
on Busycon shells from Historic Period sites in Florida, although the method
in which the hole was made is not suggested). The relatively high incidence
Strombus gigas shell with prehistoric "opening" hole.
Scale in centimeters.
of spires with battered apeces from the Pine Cay site (50 percent, n=149)
appears to support the hypothesis that the apex was used for that or some
Keegan has attempted to discern how the Indians removed the snail from
its shell. The purpose of the experiment was to reconstruct human behavior
from the following evidence: (1) S. gigas shells from prehistoric sites in
the Caribbean have a hole located on the spire directly above the area of
columella muscle attachment; (2) the muscle must be cut or destroyed before
the snail can be removed from its shell; (3) the simplest and fastest method
is to cut the muscle; (4) differential distributions of shells at the Pine
Cay site suggest that certain morphological types were selected and transported
to the site, while others were discarded away from the site; (5) certain mor-
phological types are better suited for artifact manufacture than others
(Keegan 1981); and, (6) the awkward shape, large size, and heavy weight of
the shell makes it difficult to transport large quantities of shell long
That evidence suggests that the meat was removed from the shell at the
procurement site. Thus, only the meat would be transported to the occupation
site along with those shell morphologies selected for artifact manufacture.
By removing the snail at the procurement site about 80 percent of the bulk
(Alcolado 1976) need not have been transported if no further use was intended.
Keegan's experiment involved knocking a hole in the predescribed location
by striking it with the apex of another S. gigas shell. The circular shape
of the hole was exactly duplicated by Keegan's experiments. Next, the stem
of a palmetto frond (Sabal palmetto) was slightly sharpened and pushed down
into the hole along the columella. This effectively detached the thin section
of muscle that attaches the snail to the shell. The method was completely
successful in all fifteen attempts, and with practice it could be accomplished
in a matter of seconds.
For anyone wishing to replicate this experiment the following information
could prove useful. First, it is helpful to use an Indian-opened shell as a
guide for knocking the hole in the proper location. If the hole is not pro-
perly located the muscle cannot be detached. Second, the muscle is observable
through the hole; it appears as a white section along the columella, and
should not be confused with the pale brown color of the snail's viscera.
Finally, the instrument used to cut the muscle need not be sharp. It must
only have a thin edge (1-2 mm), be narrow enough to fit within the diameter
of the hole (10-20 mm), and be long enough to allow one end to be grasped
firmly while the other is pushed into the hole the length of the columella
(about 25-30 cm).
The muscle must be completely cut or the snail cannot be removed from
the shell. This requires sliding or pushingthe tool to either side along the
columella. The stem of a palmetto frond is not necessarily the tool employed
by the prehistoric Islanders. It proved successful in Keegan's experiments,
but it had the disadvantage of splintering after several uses.
An alternative method of removing the snail has been suggested in print.
DeBooy (1915:79-80) proposed that boiling water may have been poured into the
opening hole to force the snail from its shell. To my knowledge
this technique has never been tested. However, since this method was proposed
to account for the opening hole in the spire it may be disregarded in light
of Keegan's findings.
Reiger (1981) has proposed that heating was used for the removal of snails
from large gastropods (Busycon, Strombus, Pleuroploca) by South Florida's
prehistoric Indians, based on his observation at coastal sites of large numbers
of univalves without any opening holes in the spires.
Heating the snail in its shell is not an efficient method of meat removal.
The awkward shaped, large, heavy shells must be transported to the occupation
site; a fire is required; a long period of time may elapse before the meat is
available (Bales 1961:13; Verrill 1950:136-137); and the meat could be in-
edible (Nicolas 1980) or unsuited for drying. Also, the heating hypothesis
does not fit the evidence from prehistoric sites in the Caribbean. It remains
the task of Florida archaeologists to determine to test the evidence from
The author acknowledges the possibility that more than one technique
could have been employed to obtain the meat. If such variation can be demon-
strated it is likely that it will reflect temporal and/or cultural differ-
ences. I would suggest that the more important a resource was for a par-
ticular group, the more efficient their methods of utilization were.
The results of Keegan's experiment should not be applied uncritically to
other marine gastropods, although evidence from the Pine Cay site indicates
that Strombus rainus and Cittarium pica were opened in a similar way. Other
utilized gastropods (Busycon, Pleuroploca) should be tested to determine if
the location of the opening hole corresponds to the columella muscle attach-
ment. The difference between prehistoric cultures of Florida and the Carib-
bean also recommends that shell remains from Florida be critically evaluated
and tested to determine if the "hole" technique should be ascribed to those
Summary and Conclusions
This article has presented information concerning three aspects of
resource procurement. The majority of this information has been generated
by studies conducted in the Caribbean, but it should be possible for archae-
ologists working in Florida to adapt this data to their own research.
Three distinct morphologies can be recognized during the growth sequence
of Strombus gigas (pre-lip, lip, thick lip). There is evidence that these
stages of growth were recognized by the prehistoric peoples of the Caribbean.
By analyzing the distribution of these morphological stages at archaeological
sites inferences about procurement and the selection of raw materials for
artifact manufacture can be generated.
The specific microenvironmental distribution of Strombus gigas is
important in the consideration of procurement strategies. By defining the
location of habitats capable of supporting S. gigas populations in the past,
evidence of time and energy expenditures in procurement activities can be
Finally, two possible methods of removing the snail from its shell
have been discussed. Keegan's experiments indicate that the "hole" technique
adequately accounts for material evidence from the Caribbean, and it demon-
strates that the snail could be obtained quickly and easily with available
"tools." The "heating" technique could explain the occurrence of apparently
"unopened" shells from archaeological sites in Florida. This technique
deserves further testing to determine if it is as effective as Reiger (1981)
suggests. It is possible that several techniques were employed at different
times and by different cultures.
The method of meat removal has important implications. By reconstruct-
ing the technique employed it should be possible to explain why shells were
transported to habitation sites, and should explicate the time and energy
expended in obtaining food and tool sources.
I would like to thank William and Virginia Cowles of Pine Cay, Turks
and Caicos Islands, for their continued interest and support. I would also
like to thank Chuck Hesse, Director of the Foundation for the Protection of
Reefs and Islands from Degradation and Exploitation (P.R.I.D.E.), Pine
Cay, for his support of Strombus gigas research. Financial support for my
1979 research on Pine Cay was provided by Mr. and Mrs. Cowles and the P.R.I.D.E.
Foundation. A special thanks is given to Katherine Orr for all of her assistance
with earlier drafts of this paper.
Alcolado, Pedro M.
1976 Growth, Morphological Variations of the Shell and Some
Biological Data of the Conch ("Cobo") Strombus Gigas L.
(Mollusca, Megagastropoda). Academia De Ciencias De
Cuba, Instituto De Oceanologia, Serie Oceanologica
No. 34, La Habana (translation funded by the Wallace
Groves Aquaculture Foundation).
Armstrong, Douglas V.
1979 'Scrap' or Tools: A Closer Look at Strombus Gigas
Columella Artifacts. Journal of the Virgin Islands
Archaeological Society 7:27-34.
Bales, B. R.
1961 Cleaning Marine Shells. In How to Collect Shells,
Marienette: American Malacological Union.
Berg, C. J., Jr.
1976 Growth of the Queen Conch, Strombus gigas, with a
Discussion of the Practicality of its Mariculture.
Marine Biology 34:191-9.
Brownell, Willard N.
1977 Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Conch, Strombus Gigas
in the Caribbean. In Symposium on Progress in Marine
Research in the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions, H. B.
Stewart, Jr., (ed.), FAO Fisheries Report No. 200.
Brownell, Willard N. and Carl J. Berg
1978 Conchs in the Caribbean: A Sustainable Resource? Sea
Carr, Robert S. and John F. Reiger
1980 Strombus Celt Caches in Southeast Florida. Florida
1915 Pottery From Certain Caves in Eastern Santo Domingo,
West Indies. American Anthropologist 17:69-97.
Doran, Edwin, Jr.
1958 The Caicos Conch Trade. The Geographical Review
Hesse, Katherine Orr
1977 Ecology and Behavior of the Queen Conch, Strombus Gigas,
Unpublished Masters Thesis, Biological Sciences Depart-
ment, University of Connecticut, Storrs.
Hesse, R. C. and Katherine O.
1977 The Conch Industry in the Turks and Caicos Islands,
Underwater Naturalist, 10.
Hoffman, Charles A., Jr.
1967 Bahama Prehistory: Cultural Adaptation to an Island
Environment. Doctoral Dissertation, University of
Arizona. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms.
Keegan, William F.
1981 Artifacts in Archaeology: A Caribbean Case Study.
Masters Thesis, Florida Atlantic University. Ann Arbor:
n.d. 'Scrap' or Tools: A Closer Look at Strombus Gigas
Columella Artifacts; An Evaluation. Journal of the
Virgin Islands Archaeological Society, in press.
1965 Notes on the Anatomy of the Queen Conch, Strombus Gigas.
Bulletin of Marine Science 15:338-358.
Milanich, Jerald T. and Charles H. Fairbanks
1980 Florida Archaeology. New York: Academic Press.
Nicolas, Jean F.
1981 The Complete Cookbook of American Fish and Shellfish.
Boston: CBI Publishing Company, Inc.
1979 Personal Communication. Mr. Penn is the former head of
the Turks and Caicos Islands Fisheries Department.
Communications on Pine Cay, July 1979.
Percharde, Peter L.
1970 A Comparison of Strombus (Mollusca) Colonies of Two
Southern Caribbean Islands--Trinidad and Grenada. Pre-
sented at the VIIth Caribbean Geological Conference,
Section 5, Symposium 2, Caribbean Reef Systems.
Randall, John E.
1964 Contributions to the Biology of the Queen Conch, Strombus
Gigas. Bulletin of Marine Science of the Gulf and Carib-
Reiger, John R.
1979 The Making of Aboriginal Shell Tools: Clues From South
Florida. Florida Anthropologist, 32:130-138.
An Analysis of Four Types of Shell Artifacts From South
Florida. Florida Anthropologist, 34:4-20.
Sears, William H. and Shaun D. Sullivan
1978 Bahamas Prehistory. American Antiquity, 43:3-25.
Taylor, William Randolph
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the Americas. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
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Warmke, Germaine L. and R. Tucker Abbott
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William F. Keegan
288 Kinsey Hall
University of California
Los Angeles, California 90024
THE SALVAGE OF JOHN M. GOGGIN'S PANAMANIAN COLLECTION:
A PERSONAL TRIBUTE
Howard H. Hirschhorn
In 1964 when I was on duty as a U.S. Army Military Police Lieutenant
in the Panama Canal Zone, an Air Force jungle survival instructor pointed at
a long shed topped with a corrugated metal roof. "You say you used to be a
student of Goggin at Gainesville?" he said. "Well, there's the grave goods
he left behind when he died." We ducked under the wall-less shed just as the
daily torrential downpour began. I saw several dozen mounds of earth strewn
with pottery, porcelain, stone implements and cannon balls covering the con-
crete floor along its seventy-some feet length. Dr. Goggin's favorite 5 x 7
inch sheets of paper--his stratigraphic notes--lay torn, water-logged and
scattered over the floor, protruding here and there from under the brown-black
clods of earth. The tropical rain pelted down so furiously on the metal roof
that we had to yell to understand each other. As I reached down and picked
up a potsherd, I felt, for an instant, guilt. Then a chill coursed through
me and I broke out in goose pimples. The guilt gave way to the eerie sensa-
tion of displeasing Goggin's soul. We had not gotten along well together at
his anthropology laboratory at Gainesville some six or seven years before,
and he had actually formally forbidden me to touch any of his collection of
potsherds and shells because I was so clumsy, among other academic defects.
I did rub him the wrong way by drinking wine instead of whisky (sic) like
everyone else on the archeological jaunts between northern Florida and Georgia
in his red pickup truck. Also, because he was somewhat of a Catholic himself,
he seemed bewildered at what I was supposed to be--a Catholic Jew. Well,
perhaps I did annoy him leading to the exacerabation of his physical suffering.
Once, when he was stricken with one of his painful gout attacks, John M.
Maclachlan, then Chairman of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology,
walked Goggin down the staircase after a lecture, and I, holding his crutches,
walked down directly in front of him to catch him if he fell. Goggin's gout
was relieved by high humidity and temperature, such as was typical of his
favorite climate in the Yucatan peninsula. With a double-wide matrimonio
hammock slung diagonally across his living room, and the house heat turned up
to 1000 F or more, he eased his gouty pains. Whiskey and chili-laced turkey
mol6, however, didn't do much to alleviate his gout.
I offered to gather up the grave goods and send them to the Smithsonian,
but they politely replied that, despite an earlier association with Goggin,
their interest in the matter was now (in 1964), gone.
The collection now reposes with me and I offer these photographs
(Figs. 1-2) and this article as a sign of my respect for J. M. Goggin and
VOL. 35 NO. 2 THE FLORIDA ANTHROPOLOGIST JUNE 1982
Figure 1. A pedestal, double-rimmed ceramic vessel from Goggin's
Panama collection. The design consists of the bird
motif, typical of double-rimmed vessels and includes
appliqued, incised and punctated elements. This vessel
is probably from Veraguas, Panama.
Figure 2. Incised pottery fragment recovered by Goggin in Panama
displaying the "crested crocodile" or "crocodile-god"
motif. This design-element is commonly found on in-
cised ceramics from Panama and Costa Rica.
Howard H. Hirschhorn
Coral Gables, FL 33134