Resource abundance constraints on the early post-contact Cherokee population

Paul V Bolstad, Ted L. Gragson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We present the combination of an analysis of resource demand by the early post-contact (1721) Cherokee population with spatially explicit estimates of production for five key resources: architectural land, agricultural land, firewood, hard mast, and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). We combine a recent synthesis of village location and population, a map of recognized Cherokee territory, digital terrain data, estimates of per capita demand, and productive capacity for each resource. Average, high, and low demands were estimated for each resource and assigned based on a weighted function of terrain and distance from each village. We conclude that Cherokee demands for architectural and agricultural land, hard mast, and fuelwood were easily met within a short proximity to each town under all combinations of production and demand. These resources were likely not limiting, and were satisfied for the entire Cherokee population by less than 1% of the entire recognized Cherokee territory in 1721. These resources likely exceeded demand even when sources were restricted to the convex hull of the Cherokee territory, or to near stream, flat regions. Deer resources were likely harvested over a much larger area and to a much greater extent. Our best estimate of deer resource demand was 32% of annual sustainable production in the Cherokee territory, with from 16 to 48% of estimated sustainable production harvested for low and high demand estimates, respectively. Our estimates vary in response to uncertainties in deer production, harvest proportion, deer density, and sustainable harvest rates. Deer demand was substantially higher under all combinations of conditions than that available within the convex hull of Cherokee villages, indicating significant travel was needed to furnish deer requirements. Spatially explicit models that consider terrain- and distance-related tradeoffs suggest that Cherokee demand for deer drove harvest over areas consisting of over half the recognized Cherokee territory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)563-576
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Cherokee
  • Deer
  • Geography
  • Population
  • Resource
  • Use


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