The white tailed-deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmermann 1780) is one of the largest mammals in Holocene America. It was a primary resource for pre-Columbian communities in the wooded savannas of Panama for several millennia. The oldest remains yet found refer to the Late Preceramic period (6000-4500 cal yr BP), when people were already farming (i.e. at Cerro Mangote). Deer bones, antlers, and inferentially, sinews and skins, were used for tools, ornaments, musical instruments, and furniture. A prominent role in regional (i.e., Greater Coclé) symbolism is evidenced by the frequent representation of these cervids on ceramic, gold, and bone art objects at hierarchized villages and burial grounds during the period 2300-500 cal yr BP. We infer the duration and seasonality of human-deer interactions across a region characterized climatically by ~4 month intense dry seasons, and ~8 month unpredictable wet seasons. We combine microwear and mesowear analyses of deer teeth at three pre-Columbian sites with different time spans –Cerro Mangote (AG-1) (5900-3020 cal yr BP), Sitio Sierra (AG-3) (2300-500 cal yr BP), and Cerro Juan Díaz (LS-3) (2300-400 cal yr BP)–. The two dental wear methods indicate that the white-tailed deer was a browser at these sites. The microwear results, based on the degree of variability in the numbers of microwear traits such as scratches and pits, show that white-tailed deer hunting was restricted to wet seasons at Cerro Mangote and Cerro Juan Díaz while, at Sitio Sierra, different kinds of occupational events involving white-tailed deer occurred throughout the year.
Martínez-Polanco, María Fernanda, Rivals, Florent and Cooke, Richard G. 2019. Behind white-tailed deer teeth: A micro- and mesowear analysis from three Panamanian pre-Columbian archaeological sites. Quaternary International, : 1-10. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2019.09.022