Date of Award

Summer 8-23-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Quaternary and Climate Studies


Daniel H. Sandweiss

Second Committee Member

Alan D. Wanamaker Jr.

Third Committee Member

Bonnie Newsom

Additional Committee Members

Kendra D. Bird

Amber (Sky) Heller


The ratio of oxygen isotopes (ẟ18O) derived from archaeological bivalves can be used to suggest whether a site was occupied seasonally or year-round. To address the question of seasonality at three archaeological shell midden sites along the coast of Maine, modern samples of the soft-shelled clam, Mya arenaria, were collected from tidal mudflats associated with each site once a month for one year. An average of six modern shells per month were analyzed with their resulting ẟ18O values used to establish monthly ranges to which the archaeological samples of Mya arenaria were assigned; association of the archaeological shells to a monthly range provided a proxy for season of occupation at these archaeological sites. Over the course of this research, several variables that had not previously been recognized as having the potential to lead to misrepresentative results when using ẟ18O to analyze this species are explored, with several potential solutions suggested. These types of data are integral to our understanding of indigenous peoples’ subsistence and behavior patterns along Maine’s prehistoric coast, and any sources of potential error must be identified, addressed, and controlled for.

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