W4 Archaeology in the News Post

One of the first articles that I came across that grabbed my attention was on NPR Michigan radio’s website. The article titled “Oyster Archaeology: Ancient trash holds clues to sustainable harvesting” uncovers the importance of Oysters and studying history. The article starts off by explaining how Oysters used to be a lot bigger hundreds of years ago. People had to cut them in half before they could even eat them. Today, because of decades of overfishing, oyster populations have dropped 1 percent of what they were around 1900. Researchers uncovered that Native Americans figured out how to farm oysters sustainably, and their techniques could help support our oyster habit today. Archaeologists began by studying Native American trash pits, which speckle the Chesapeake Bay Coast and are full of oyster shells. Using radio carbon dating, researchers found that the oldest trash pit survived to be 3,200 years old and most recent to the date no later than 1900. Then they measured the height of each oyster as a proxy for past human pressure on oysters. The scientists rounded the survey out by examining oyster size from fossils hundreds of thousands of years old. It is interesting that these processes can be replicated in relation to our current studies and what we apply to every scientific process.

7 thoughts on “W4 Archaeology in the News Post

  1. It’s fascinating to learn how species have evolved over the years due to human growth and agriculture. It’s hard to picture oysters much larger than the palm of your hand, let along needing to cut them in half in order to eat them. If archaeologists are able to learn how the Native Americans harvested oysters in order to not harm the habitats but to help them flourish and increase to the size they once were. These techniques for agriculture could spread to other crops and farms to help increase the food supply throughout the world. Hopefully in the long run, farms could become smaller and give back the land to the wild to help all species grow.

  2. Very interesting ! I have always been fascinated by how animals adapt to new habitats and change over time. I am glad that the Native Americans have farming techniques which will help preserve the oyster species, and also that archaeologists and scientists are able to uncover information about the oysters’ history. It is important for us to know both! I have always been fascinated by the Native American’s farming techniques and their overall knowledge of how to improve farming and medicine through nature.

  3. Very interesting! I have always been fascinated by how animals adapt and change over time. I’m glad that the Native Americans have farming techniques that will help preserve the oyster species; and also that archaeologists and scientists are able to uncover information about the oysters’ history. It is important for us to know both! I have always found it incredible to learn how much the Native Americans know about nature, and how they use it to improve farming and medicine.

  4. I never would have considered how our selection for larger oysters for food (before farming them, of course) would put pressure on them to make oysters smaller. Natural selection at its finest. A similar thing happened in Japan where a species of crab occasionally would have a shell shaped vaguely like a samurai helmet, and those weren’t consumed. Very quickly, the crabs evolved to have more samurai-like shells!

    I’m also a little disappointed that they didn’t really delve into the method that was used to farm the oysters, since it is fascinating to me that we could adapt a method from one that was already used over a century ago!

  5. This is an absolutely perfect example of the valuable resources the past can give us. Archaeologists are excited to learn from the past and share their knowledge with others. In this case, modern oyster farming is in need of change, and archaeologists are turning to Native Americans for help. They discovered that the Native Americans had a method of farming oysters sustainably, and they wanted to learn more about it. One of the jokes about archaeology is that they love to look through other people’s garbage, but that’s exactly what they are doing here! Hopefully the information gained through this research will allow us to change the ways in which we catch and consume oysters, in hopes of growing the population back.

  6. I have never really known much about oysters, but I especially did not know that they used to be much bigger. I have, however, been aware of the negative repercussions of overfishing. It is interesting how archaeologists were able to use information about oysters in order to better understand Native Americans and how they used to live their lives. I also love how the Native Americans harvested these oysters in order to have them grow to the size that they once were. Hopefully with our new and improved technology these days, we can try to help other species thrive as well.

  7. This is a really interesting article although I think it is not very surprising because evolution keeps going on through our lifetime. Humans, animals, plants, and other organisms living in this earth change slowly overtime as they adapt to their environment, just like Darwin’s theory about natural selection. However, I think archaeological studies about oysters’ size is an unusual case that we might never think of before. When I first read this analysis, I am really impressed on how the study of archaeology can actually help and applied to our current situation on sustainable harvesting. This really opened up my mind that archaeology is not only limited to artifacts, human remains, and culture in the past.

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