Refining Potential Source Regions via Combined Maize Niche Modeling and Isotopes: a Case Study from Chaco Canyon, NM, USA

Deanna N. Grimstead, Matthew C. Pailes, R. Kyle Bocinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The application of geochemical sourcing methods to archaeological questions continues to grow, as does the need for innovation in applying these methods. The process of sourcing materials is to rule out potential areas in favor of the most likely origin. It will foreseeably remain true that additional data could reveal other potential sources for an artifact. However, the use of multiple methods to further refine potential sources should not be neglected. In this paper, we use maize niche modeling in tandem with isotopic data to refine possible source regions of archaeological deer from Chaco Canyon, NM, USA (ca. AD 800–1250). Previous research on this prehistoric community demonstrated an extensive non-local procurement system where small mammals were garden-hunted in plots lying > 40 km from the canyon and the procurement of deer from upper elevations at > 90 km. The upper elevation procurement of deer will be tested by adding carbon isotopes and maize niche modeling to previously published strontium and oxygen isotopic data. As browsers with an affinity for maize, deer harvested in low to mid elevations within the maize farming niche should have carbon isotope ratios reflecting C 4 plant consumption. Growing degree days in this region place the most salient limits on the elevation of maize production and define the region corresponding to a maize-free diet. Analyses of archaeofaunal deer from Pueblo Bonito indicate that hunting occurred at a higher elevation than the maize farming niche. These results demonstrate the utility of combining geochemical sourcing methods with paleoenvironmental modeling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-51
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Archaeological Method and Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 15 2019


  • Carbon isotopes
  • Chaco canyon
  • Deer
  • Maize niche modeling
  • Sourcing


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