This article is about archaeological remains, known in Spanish as "conchales". For the municipality in São Paulo, Brazil, see Conchal
. For other uses, see Midden (disambiguation)
A closeup of a shell midden in Argentina.
, therefore, provide a useful resource for archaeologists
who wish to study the diets
and habits of past societies. Middens with damp, anaerobic
conditions can even preserve organic
remains in deposits as the debris of daily life are tossed on the pile. Each individual toss will contribute a different mix of materials depending upon the activity associated with that particular toss. During the course of deposition sedimentary material is deposited as well. Different mechanisms, from wind and water to animal digs, create a matrix which can also be analysed to provide seasonal and climatic information. In some middens individual dumps of material can be discerned and analysed.
A shell midden
or shell mound
is an archaeological
feature consisting mainly of mollusk
shells. The Danish term køkkenmøddinger
(plural) was first used by Japetus Steenstrup
to describe shell heaps and continues to be used by some researchers. A midden, by definition, contains the debris of human activity, and should not be confused with wind- or tide-created beach mounds. Some shell middens are processing remains: areas where aquatic resources were processed directly after harvest and prior to use or storage in a distant location.
Some shell middens are directly associated with villages, as a designated village dump site. In other middens, the material is directly associated with a house in the village. Each household would dump its garbage directly outside the house. In all cases, shell middens are extremely complex and very difficult to excavate fully and exactly. The fact that they contain a detailed record of what food was eaten or processed and many fragments of stone tools
and household goods makes them invaluable objects of archaeological
Shells have a high calcium carbonate
content, which tends to make the middens alkaline
. This slows the normal rate of decay caused by soil acidity, leaving a relatively high proportion of organic material (food remnants, organic tools, clothing, human remains) available for archaeologists to find.
Edward Sylvester Morse
conducted one of the first archaeological excavations of the Omori Shell Mounds
in Tokyo, Japan
in 1877, which led to the discovery of a style of pottery described as "cord-marked", translated as "Jōmon
", which came to be used to refer to the early period of Japanese history
when this style of pottery was produced.
Shell middens were studied in Denmark in the latter half of the 19th century. The Danish word køkkenmødding
(kitchen mound) is now used internationally. The English word "midden" (waste mound) derives from the same Old Norse word that produced the modern Danish one.
Shell middens are found in coastal or lakeshore zones all over the world. Consisting mostly of mollusc
shells, they are interpreted as being the waste products of meals eaten by nomadic groups or hunting parties. Some are small examples relating to meals had by a handful of individuals, others are many metres in length and width and represent centuries of shell deposition. In Brazil
, they are known as sambaquis
, having been created over a long period between the 6th millennium BCE and the beginning of European colonisation.
's west coast, there are shell middens that run for more than 1 kilometre (0.6 mi) along the coast and are several meters deep.
The midden in Namu, British Columbia
is over 9 metres (30 ft) deep and spans over 10,000 years of continuous occupation.
Shell middens created in coastal regions of Australia by Indigenous Australians
exist in Australia
today. Middens provide evidence of prior occupation and are generally protected from mining and other developments. One must exercise caution in deciding whether one is examining a midden or a beach mound. There are good examples on the Freycinet Peninsula
in Tasmania where wave action currently is combining charcoal from forest fire debris with a mix of shells into masses that storms deposit above high-water mark. Shell mounds near Weipa
in far north Queensland that are mostly less than 2 metres (6.6 ft) high (although ranging up to 10 metres (33 ft) high) and a few tens of metres long are claimed to be middens,
but are in fact shell cheniers (beach ridges) re-worked by nest mound-building birds.
Some shell middens are regarded as sacred sites, linked to the Dreamtime
, such as those of the Anbarra group of the Burarra people
of Arnhem Land
There are instances in which shell middens may have doubled as areas of ceremonial construction or ritual significance. The Woodland period Crystal River site
provides an example of this phenomenon.
Some shell mounds, known as shell rings
, are circular or open arcs with a clear central area. Many are known from Japan and the southeastern United States, and at least one from South America.
It is mainly today used by archaeologists
worldwide to describe any kind of feature containing waste products relating to day-to-day human life. They may be convenient, single-use pits created by nomadic
groups or long-term, designated dumps used by sedentary
communities that accumulate over several generations.
The word is used by farmers
in Britain to describe the place where farm yard manure from cows or other animals is collected. Grants are sometimes available to protect these from rain to avoid runoff and pollution
In the animal kingdom, some species establish ground burrows
, also known as middens, that are used mostly for food storage. For example, the North American red squirrel
) usually has one large active midden in each territory with perhaps an inactive or auxiliary midden.
A midden may be a regularly used animal toilet
area or dunghill
, created by many mammals, such as the hyrax
, and also serving as a territorial marker.
Some animals, including some species of fishes, collect foodstuffs with heavy shells that are hard to remove. They may establish sites where rocks or similar items are available as natural anvils
on which the animals habitually break open the shells. These discarded shells may accumulate around the anvils in sizeable middens, sometimes for generations. Commonly such middens are sited where there is a convenient rock that is an unusual resource in the region.
middens are piles of debris that the octopus piles up to conceal the entrance of its den. Octopus middens are commonly made of rocks, shells, and the bones of prey, although they may contain anything the octopus finds that it can move.
- ^ Brinton, DG (1866). "Artificial Shell-deposits of the United States". Reports. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.
- ^ Stein, Julie (2000). Exploring Coast Salish Prehistory: The Archaeology of San Juan Island.
- ^ "Whaleback Shell Midden". Retrieved 11 May 2006.
- ^ John Whitney Hall (1988). The Cambridge History of Japan. Cambridge University Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-521-22352-2.
- ^ Keiji Imamura. "Collections of Morse from The Shell Mounds of Omori". Digital Museum, University of Tokyo. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". www.etymonline.com.
- ^ Stein, Julie (1992). Deciphering a Shell Midden. Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-664730-3.
- ^ Bailey, G; Chappell, J.B; Cribb, R (1994) "The origin of Anadara shell mounds at Weipa, North Queensland, Australia" Archaeology in Oceania. Volume 29 Number 2. pp. 69–80
- ^ Stone, Tim (31 December 1995). "Shell mound formation in coastal northern Australia". Marine Geology. 129 (1–2): 77–100. Bibcode:1995MGeol.129...77S. doi:10.1016/0025-3227(95)00101-8.
- ^ Griffiths, Billy (2018). Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia. Black Inc. p. 164.
- ^ "Otter Mound Preserve". Colliergov.net. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
- ^ Pluckhahn, Thomas J.; Thompson, Victor D.; Cherkinsky, Alexander (2015). "The temporality of shell-bearing landscapes at Crystal River, Florida". Journal of Anthropological Anthropology. 37: 19–36. doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2014.10.004.
- ^ Lawrence, David R. and Hilda L. Wrightson. "Late Archaic-Early Woodland Period Shell Rings of the Southeastern United States Coast: A Bibliographic Introduction". University of South Carolina. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- ^ Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.), 2003.
- ^ "Annaker's midden n. a mess, a shambles". Scots Language Centre. Retrieved 15 July 2020.
- ^ "Manure/Slurry Storage". Scottish Government. Investment under this storage and handling Option may include: action to minimise the volume of clean water getting into manure or slurry stores, including the installation of covers for slurry storage facilities and middens
- ^ "Roofed Midden benefits Lake District Farm". Thanks to a grant from Farming Connect Cumbria the Booths were able to roof the slurry midden, probably trebling its capacity by excluding the rainwater, as well as making necessary repairs to the midden itself to prevent possible run-off to a nearby beck. The midden can now provide up to 10 weeks' storage for the slurry.
- ^ firstname.lastname@example.org. "Alaska Department of Fish & Game: North American Red Squirrel". Adfg.state.ak.us. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
- ^ Chase, B.M.; Meadows, M.E.; Scott, L.; Thomas, D.S.G.; Marais, E.; Sealy, J.; Reimer, P.J. (2009). "A record of rapid Holocene climate change preserved in hyrax middens from southwestern Africa". Geology. 37 (8): 703–6. Bibcode:2009Geo....37..703C. doi:10.1130/G30053A.1.
- ^ Ambrose, Richard F. (1983). "Midden formation by octopuses: The role of biotic and abiotic factors". Marine Behaviour and Physiology. 10 (2): 137–144. doi:10.1080/10236248309378613. Published online: 22 Jan 2009
Last edited on 26 March 2021, at 23:29
Content is available under CC BY-SA 3.0
unless otherwise noted.