PULLMAN, Wash. — The historic inhabitants of the American Southwest used round 11,500 feathers to make a turkey feather blanket, in line with a new paper within the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. The individuals who made such blankets have been ancestors of present-day Pueblo Indians such because the Hopi, Zuni and Rio Grande Pueblos.

A workforce led by Washington State University archaeologists analyzed an roughly 800-year-old, 99 x 108 cm (about 39 x 42.5 inches) turkey feather blanket from southeastern Utah to get a greater concept of the way it was made. Their work revealed hundreds of downy physique feathers have been wrapped round 180 meters (practically 200 yards) of yucca fiber twine to make the blanket, which is at the moment on show on the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding, Utah.

The researchers additionally counted physique feathers from the pelts of untamed turkeys bought from ethically and legally compliant sellers in Idaho to get an estimate of what number of turkeys would have been wanted to supply feathers for the blanket. Their efforts present it might have taken feathers from between 4 to 10 turkeys to make the blanket, relying on the size of feathers chosen.

“Blankets or robes made with turkey feathers as the insulating medium were widely used by Ancestral Pueblo people in what is now the Upland Southwest, but little is known about how they were made because so few such textiles have survived due to their perishable nature,” mentioned Bill Lipe, emeritus professor of anthropology at WSU and lead writer of the paper. “The goal of this study was to shed new light on the production of turkey feather blankets and explore the economic and cultural aspects of raising turkeys to supply the feathers.”

Clothing and blankets made of animal hides, furs or feathers are broadly assumed to have been improvements important to the enlargement of people into chilly, increased latitude and better elevation environments, such because the Upland Southwest of the United States the place many of the early settlements have been at elevations above 5,000 ft.

Previous work by Lipe and others exhibits turkey feathers started to interchange strips of rabbit pores and skin in development of twined blankets within the area in the course of the first two centuries C.E. Ethnographic information recommend the blankets have been made by girls and have been used as cloaks in chilly climate, blankets for sleeping and finally as funerary wrappings.

Bill Lipe and Shannon Tushingham collect feathers from a wild turkey pelt in Tushingham's lab at WSU.
Bill Lipe and Shannon Tushingham gather feathers from a wild turkey pelt in Tushingham’s lab at WSU.

“As ancestral Pueblo farming populations flourished, many thousands of feather blankets would likely have been in circulation at any one time,” mentioned Shannon Tushingham, a co-author on the research and assistant professor of anthropology at WSU. “It is likely that every member of an ancestral Pueblo community, from infants to adults, possessed one.”

Another fascinating discovering of the research was the turkey feathers utilized by the ancestral Pueblo folks to make clothes have been almost definitely painlessly harvested from stay birds throughout pure molting intervals. This would have allowed sustainable assortment of feathers a number of occasions a yr over a fowl’s lifetime, which might have exceeded 10 years. Archeological proof signifies turkeys have been typically not used as a meals supply from the time of their domestication within the early centuries C.E. till the 1100s and 1200s C.E., when the provision of untamed recreation within the area had turn out to be depleted by over-hunting.

Prior to this era, most turkey bones reported from archaeological websites are entire skeletons from mature birds that have been deliberately buried, indicating ritual or cultural significance. Such burials continued to happen even after extra turkeys started to be raised for meals.

“When the blanket we analyzed for our study was made, we think in the early 1200s C.E., the birds that supplied the feathers were likely being treated as individuals important to the household and would have been buried complete,” Lipe mentioned. “This reverence for turkeys and  their feathers is still evident today in Pueblo dances and rituals. They are right up there with eagle feathers as being symbolically and culturally important.”

In the long term, the researchers mentioned their hope is the research will assist folks recognize the significance of turkeys to Native American cultures throughout the Southwest.

“Turkeys were one of the very few domesticated animals in North America until Europeans arrived in the 1500s and 1600s,” Tushingham mentioned. “They had and continue to have a very culturally significant role in the lives of Pueblo people, and our hope is this research helps shed light on this important relationship.”

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