Biology Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Turkey Domestication and Iconography during the Mimbres Classic Period

Event Name/Location

20th Biennial Mogollon Archaeology Conference / Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Publication Date



While much is known about turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) domestication in the northern U.S. Southwest based on genetics and bone isotopes, archaeologists are not fully aware of how people in the Mimbres Valley managed these birds. Mimbres groups used turkeys in some capacity due to archaeological evidence, but researchers have not reached a consensus on if domestication occurred. We analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of 19 turkeys from Elk Ridge Ruin, Mattocks, and Wheaton-Smith to determine if they belong to the H1 domestic or H2 wild haplogroup. We report varying levels of extraction and amplification success with yields between 1.6 and 13.8 ng/µl. After the final results are analyzed, these genetic data will be contextualized with previously published haplogroup data. We discuss if domestication occurred in similar ways in the Mimbres Valley compared to other regions. Also, because turkeys are depicted on Mimbres pottery, we discuss turkey iconography to understand how these birds were used and viewed in Mimbres society during the Classic period (A.D. 1000–1130). Using multiple lines of evidence, we contribute new insights into the dynamic relationship between humans and turkeys in the prehispanic U.S. Southwest.