There’s more uses for a turkey than the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving feast.

Researchers believe the flightless fowl held deep significance for ancient Pueblo Indians in the American Southwest, who domesticated the bird but didn’t eat it.

Archaeologists at Washington State University examined a 800-year-old feather blanket from southeast Utah, one of the few remaining examples of its kind.

William Lipe.
Lipe

“The birds that supplied the feathers were likely being treated as individuals important to the household,” said anthropologist Bill Lipe. “This reverence for turkeys and their feathers is still evident today in Pueblo dances and rituals.”

Shannon Tushingham.
Tushingham

“As ancestral Pueblo farming populations flourished, many thousands of feather blankets would likely have been in circulation at any one time,” said Shannon Tushingham, a professor of anthropology at WSU and co-author of the study. “It is likely that every member of an ancestral Pueblo community, from infants to adults, possessed one.”

Surprisingly, the turkeys would have been treated more like pets or members of the family than dinner.

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