Zooarchaeology is the branch of archaeology dealing with the study of animal remains from archaeological sites.  Archaeoentomology is a relatively recent addition to that, particularly in North America.  

 

Insects have penetrated virtually every environment on the planet.  As such, they can be a valuable resource, allowing archaeologists to make inferences about past environments (both natural and anthropogenic), subsistence practices, food storage, personal hygiene, introduced species, and much more!  In fact, in many cases, insect remains can reveal things about a site that can be missed by traditional artifacts.

Eleodes (Blapylis) sp.
Eleodes (Blapylis) sp.

The dorsal (left) and ventral (right) views of the carapace of the desert stink beetle (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), found at Paisley Caves (35LK3400). Some desert-dwelling native peoples have been known to crack open live tenebrionid beetles and consume the stink gland as a treatment for a sore throat.

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Pterostichus lama
Pterostichus lama

The articulated elytra (left) of a woodland ground beetle recovered from owl pellets in Lane County, Oregon. These beetles, measuring up to 30 mm in length, were recovered during an ecological study of owls, and represent 13 percent of the diet of barred owls during their breeding season. Photo at right by Andrew McKorney.

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Schizolachnus sp.
Schizolachnus sp.

This aphid was recovered from the North Marion 6 Site in the northern Willamette Valley, Oregon. It dates to almost 11,000 years ago and is a good indicator of pine trees at the site, as it lives and feeds solely on pines.

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Eleodes (Blapylis) sp.
Eleodes (Blapylis) sp.

The dorsal (left) and ventral (right) views of the carapace of the desert stink beetle (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), found at Paisley Caves (35LK3400). Some desert-dwelling native peoples have been known to crack open live tenebrionid beetles and consume the stink gland as a treatment for a sore throat.

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 Why Study Insect Remains?