New Jersey

Actually, I’m not aware of any prehistoric archaeological sites in New Jersey with identified passenger pigeon bones. Prehistoric faunal assemblages of any size are rare in the state, however, and assemblages that have been thoroughly analyzed by a zooarchaeologist are even rarer. The bird was not identified at the Abbott Farm site in Mercer County, for example. This site complex was excavated in the 1930s and field techniques did not favor the recognition and collection of small bones. Almost all birds identified from the resulting faunal assemblage are large bodied ones: swan, goose, eagle, and turkey, with mallard duck being the (slightly smaller) exception.

Passenger pigeon has been identified at some historical archaeological sites dating to the eighteenth and nineteenth century A.D., including the Lambert-Douglas Plantation in Mercer County, Raritan Landing in Middlesex County, Vanderveer (28-SO-97) in Somerset County, and Site 28-UN-30 in Union County.

Identification of Ectopistes in historic contexts is complicated by the possible presence of non-native rock dove (Columba livia),  the common pigeon now seen in cities throughout North America. While the bones of the two species can be distinguished, they are very similar in appearance and many faunal reports on post-contact archaeological sites do not distinguish between the two species, simply identifying them as “pigeon”.

If you are aware of any prehistoric sites in New Jersey with identified passenger pigeon bones, leave a comment.

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