From Ahwi to Anikahwi: Deer in Cherokee Subsistence and Social Structure

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In the Southeastern United States white-tailed deer remains are recovered in abundance from late prehistoric archaeological sites and have been used to identify numerous social and cultural phenomena including differences in food consumption based on status, feasting, inter-site transport of foodstuffs, and regional variation in subsistence strategies. Meat, marrow, and hide were three important physical contributions of deer to the daily lives of southeastern natives; however, we argue the spiritual and social value of deer were equally important. We combine zooarchaeological analyses of white-tailed deer from Mississippian Period sites with both published and unpublished data from the Native American ethnohistorical, ethnographic and linguistic record. We examine the practices and beliefs that surround the human-animal interaction -- a set of relationships that still exists in communities today. Whereas the contexts for some traditional activities, such as painting deep inside of caves or constructing elaborate architecture, may have changed, native peoples in the southeast still live in environments with animals that are largely the same as their ancestors. Given this persistent context, we use ethnohistorical accounts and ethnographic interviews to provide meaningful insights into the symbolic and social significance of a staple food prior to the arrival of Europeans.


Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting (SAA)


Honolulu, HI