Open Context


Parnell Zooarchaeology

Zooarchaeological specimen records from the Parnell Site (8CO326)

Project Abstract

Feasting and Ritual Deposition at the Parnell Site (8CO326)

In the summers of 2011 and 2012, the Florida Museum of Natural History investigated the Parnell site (8CO326), a small Mississippi period (ca. AD 1000-1500) site in the middle Suwannee River valley. The five acre site consists of a 3.5 m high sand burial mound surrounded by clusters of artifacts (primarily chert and pottery) associated with the Suwannee Valley archaeological culture. One such cluster surrounded a large pit feature located 30 meters north of the mound summit.

Feature 1 was 2.5 m by 3 m in diameter and more than half a meter deep. Vertebrate fauna, pottery, and lithic artifacts were concentrated within the feature and two meters beyond the pit margins. The base of the feature was lined with a stratum of dense charred wood and organically stained black sand. Above this basal stratum was a dense lens of faunal bone that included many whole and articulated elements. A stratum of dark brown sand and more fragmentary faunal remains filled the remainder of the pit feature. One AMS assay on charred wood from the basal stratum yielded a 2-sigma calibrated date range of A.D. 1160 to 1260.

Fourteen square meters were excavated within, and just outside of, Feature 1, representing approximately 90 percent of the feature. The resulting assemblage included more than 5000 pottery sherds representing at least 100 vessels, many of them large open bowls, ten chert arrow tips, nearly 1000 flakes of chert or silicified coral, 44 sandstone abraders and grinders, hundreds of ferruginous nodules used as hearth rocks, three small nodules of hematite and two quartz crystal fragments.

The faunal assemblage included 9866 NISP representing 215 individuals (MNI) from 35 taxa. At least 88 deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are represented, and the assemblage also includes a diverse assortment of mammals, turtles, and fish. Turkey (Meleagris galapavo) was the only bird that could be identified. While meaty forequarter and hindquarter elements are overrepresented in the deer assemblage, other mammals are represented mostly by teeth, maxillae, and mandibles, with the exception of black bear (Ursus americanus), which includes only paw and lower limb elements.

The pit feature’s isolated context at a small site that was sparsely occupied allows for recognition of remains from a feast in which a large quantity of food was prepared and consumed in a short amount of time. The large social event likely integrated numerous small communities scattered across northern Florida. More than just feasting refuse, many of the specific elements and their configuration in the pit are similar to contemporaneous burial mounds and indicate an intentional act of interment, consistent with hunter-gatherer proscriptions related to handling the bones of prey animals.

About the Project: This project is one of several experimental test-cases to integrate zooarchaeological data published by Open Context with VertNet, via the Darwin Core metadata standard. In relating these zooarchaeological data with a wider bioinformatics community, this experiment provides a basis for developing "ZooArchNet" (, a collaborative data-sharing initiative led by Dr. Kitty Emery and Dr. Rob Guralnick, Associate Curators at the Florida Museum of Natural History. They intend ZooArchNet to become a digital environmental archaeology portal that focuses on mobilizing zooarchaeological specimen-level data using tools pioneered for publishing biological and paleontological data, while also creating persistent links to, and among, open-data archaeological repositories. By doing so, ZooArchNet will facilitate data interoperability across a growing network of information resources spanning multiple disciplines, creating a foundation for integrative big-data research at the interface of archaeology and biology, and opening the door to the development of distributed data networking in archaeology. Kitty Emery provided the zooarchaeological data and archaeological context information provided here. For the time being, the same data are modeled in Darwin Core at:


Wallis, Neill J.

Ritualized Practices of the Suwannee Valley Culture in North Florida. In New Histories of Pre-Columbian Florida, edited by N. Wallis and A. Randall, pp. 243-261. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Wallis, Neill J., and Meggan E. Blessing

Big Feasts and Small Scale Foragers: Pit Features as Feast Events in the American Southeast. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 39:1-18.

Wallis, Neill J., and Meggan E. Blessing

Ritualized Deposition and Feasting Pits: Bundling of Animal Remains in Mississippi Period Florida. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 25(1):79-98.

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Editorial Note

Open Context editors work with data contributors to annotate datasets to shared vocabularies, ontologies, and other standards using 'Linked Open Data' (LOD) methods.

The annotations presented above approximate some of the meaning in this contributed data record to concepts defined in shared standards. These annotations are provided to help make datasets easier to understand and use with other datasets.

Suggested Citation

Neill Wallis. "Parnell Zooarchaeology". (2016) Neill Wallis (Ed.) . Released: 2016-10-09. Open Context. <> DOI:

Editorial Status

Editorial board reviewed

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