Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Douglas MacDonald

Commitee Members

Anna Marie Prentiss, John Douglas, Robert L. Kelly, Anna Klene


Diet-Breadth, Floral Resources, Foraging, Habitation, Hunter-gatherer, Landscape-use


University of Montana


Patterns of cultural mountain adaptations are recorded throughout the Western Cordillera of North America. They demonstrate prolonged and complex uses of these ecosystems over the Holocene. What behaviors or circumstances in the Early Holocene transitioned mountains from inhospitable to reliable territory? This research addresses this question in the Beartooth Mountains of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).

Foraging behaviors dictate hunter-gatherer mobility and habitation patterning. These behaviors are reflected in the spatial arrangement of archaeological activity areas and lithic tools in mountainous ecosystems. Energy-demanding ecosystems, require foraging behaviors and habitation strategies that conserve energy. I assert that to understand the emergence and continued use of mountain ecosystems, first: a) hunter-gatherer subsistence behaviors, b) landscape use strategies, and c) habitation patterning in the mountains must be clarified. Studying these three variables in a single mountain ecosystem enables the documentation of the behavioral patterning and variables that initiated and maintained decision-making in the mountains of the GYE.

To begin, hypothetical mountain subsistence was established using experimental foraging data collected on the primary subsistence resources archaeologically and ethnographically recorded in the GYE. Foraging datasets were run through diet breath models to determine seasonal optimal foraging strategies and allow for inferences on annual mobility in mountains.

The subsistence and foraging models created were then used to assess the role of plant resources in mountain foraging-influenced landscape-use and habitation patterning. Spatial datasets of edible plant resource patches, archaeological sites, and migration corridors provided insight on hunter-gatherer foraging strategies and plant resource importance in mountain habitation and mobility.

Results from previous chapters on behavior and subsistence in the Beartooth Mountains were used to provide inferences on occupation duration over the Holocene. Chapter 4 has two goals, 1) to reassess Beartooth occupation durations from Reckin and Todd (2020) and 2) to observe if new data under the same methods and analysis provide comparable representative mountain use patterns to larger regional datasets from the Absaroka Mountains (Reckin and Todd 2020). Combined analysis from these three chapters allows for a clearer understanding of the emergence and evolution of the mountain adaptation in the mountains of the GYE.



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