Oh Deer: Ancient DNA analysis of archaeological deer remains from Housepit 54, Bridge River Archaeological Site (EeRI-4), British Columbia, Canada

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
This study reports the findings of a mitochondrial DNA analysis of archaeological deer remains and modern deer samples from the Middle Fraser Canyon in British Columbia to investigate potential changes among localized deer populations over time. Located within the Middle Fraser Canyon, the Bridge River archaeological village site (EeRI-4) is composed of approximately 80 semi-subterranean housepits that were occupied intermittently between ca. 1800BP and 1000BP. Previous zooarchaeological examination from the site demonstrates a decrease in total deer skeletal remains and axial deer bone elements between Bridge River 2 (1460–1300BP) to Bridge River 3 (1300–1100BP), which may indicate changes in abundance and herds hunted during the transition between these two periods. Through overlapping PCR amplifications, a 585 base pair fragment of the mitochondrial D-loop was obtained and verified for 21 of 28 faunal samples while the remaining samples were later proven to be of another species (six) or with ambiguous DNA sequences (one). The same DNA fragment was also obtained from 23 modern deer samples collected from the region. The DNA sequence analysis revealed that two genetically distinct haplogroups were present (with a similar diversity) in the ancient samples and modern samples. Due to a small sample size, a more meaningful comparison could not be made between two ancient time periods, but a comparison between ancient and modern samples clearly indicated there was no significant changes to the genetic structure of deer populations in the region. This data seems to indicate a strong genetic continuity of deer populations, which may also indicate the lack of significant population changes over time in the region. It is hoped that the natural history of deer populations revealed by our limited DNA data may allow archaeologists to better reconstruct deer hunting activities and deer uses of ancestral Indigenous people in the region.
100 pages.
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Thesis advisor: Yang, Dongya
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