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The Ecological Consequences of European Settler-Colonialism in Southern New England

My dissertation work concerns changes in natural resource use associated with European settler-colonialism in southern New England. Specifically, I am investigating an apparent shift towards unsustainable exploitation of white-tailed deer and quahog clams in the 17th century. This shift seems to have resulted from commodification of these resources within a new capitalist market economy, as well as reduced ecosystem engineering in the form of controlled burns by Native peoples. This work is based on archaeological data, ethnohistoric sources, and agent-based modeling.


Relevant Publications:

Weitzel, Elic M. (2023) Resilience of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to human hunting in precolonial New England: The faunal remains from the Morgan Site (6HT120), Rocky Hill, Connecticut. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 48:103913.

Weitzel, Elic M. (2023) Environmental rebound and disruption of Indigenous land management following European colonization of southern New England. In Questioning Rebound: People and Environmental Change in the Protohistoric and Early Historic Americas, edited by Jacob Fisher and Emily Lena Jones. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, pp. 97-115.

Weitzel, Elic (2021) The Ecology of the First Thanksgiving. Scientific American 

Weitzel, Elic (2020) Are Pandemics Good for the Environment? Sapiens Magazine.

The Socioecology of Initial Domestication in Eastern North America

I am additionally working to understand the causes and consequences of the initial domestication of native crops in interior Eastern North America. This research tests the hypothesis that food production is a technological innovation that follows from economic intensification and reduced economic efficiency. To assess this, I have analyzed human population proxies, site location data, and animal bone remains from the region working with Brian Codding from the University of Utah, Stephen Carmody from Troy University, and David Zeanah from California State University, Sacramento.

Relevant Publications:

Weitzel, Elic M., Brian F. Codding, Stephen B. Carmody, and David W. Zeanah (2022) Food production and domestication produced both cooperative and competitive social dynamics in eastern North America. Environmental Archaeology . [link]


Weitzel, Elic M. (2019) Declining foraging efficiency prior to initial domestication in the Middle Tennessee River Valley. American Antiquity. 84(2): 191-214. [link]

Weitzel, Elic M. and Brian F. Codding (2016) Population growth as a driver of initial domestication in Eastern North America. Royal Society Open Science. 3(8):160319. [link]

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