Tale of the Unvaxed
Birders at Coronado Historic Site

Ancient Pet Turkeys


My idea of what ancient pueblo villages looked like did not include so many birds.

The excellent lecture series by Archaeology Southwest on Avian Archaeology is ongoing and past talks are up on their YouTube channel. The next on Turkey feather blankets will include blanket maker Mary Weahkee who replicates them using ancient techniques. The research Cyler Conrad presented is here. Upcoming topics include birds of Chaco Canyon, turkey burials, depiction on pottery and macaw and parrot keeping.

(Image from Archaeology Southwest)

The widespread evidence of domestic turkey management by ancient people indicates that they were managed in different ways and kept for different purposes. They were tethered, penned, housed in converted room blocks, and allowed to free range. Every part of them was used - eggs, feathers, bones. Maybe they provided pest control.  Maybe they provided companionship.

Judging affection for animals from the archaeological record is impossible, right?  But it's clear turkeys were valued very highly and there seems to be little evidence that they were raised as a primary food source. They were more valuable, for whatever reasons, alive.

There's a broken wing splint artifact in a display case at the Coronado Historic Site. I saw it years ago and think about it frequently. It's not the only example that's been found. The turkey's wing was broken, reset and healed. You don't do that to just any old bird you want to eat and make flutes out of.    




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