Patterns of elite faunal utilization at Moundville, Alabama
In recent years, zooarchaeological research has begun to examine the roles of animals as part of the suite of symbols employed at the ongoing social, ceremonial, and political dynamics of prehistoric cultural systems. In the southeastern United States, studies of late prehistoric Mississippian chiefdoms have documented differences in species composition and meat cuts associated with particular social contexts of consumption-for instance, ceremonial feasting vs. private meals-and also with gross distinctions in social rank-elite vs. commoner. Differences in the latter reflect elite control of procurement as well as cultural rides that assign meanings to certain species, which in so doing regulates access to their consumption. Faunal samples collected by recent mound excavations at the Moundville site in west-central Alabama provide the basis for an examination of more subtle differences in the consumption patterns of elite residents. Zooarchaeological samples produced by two elite households, although generally similar and fitting expectations for elite consumption well, are distinguished by differences in the distribution of rare species, the role of fish, and possibly by evidence of differences in food waste, distinctions that c an be associated with interpretations of these households' relative status at Moundville society drawn from other classes of archaeological data.