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Jasper Procurement, Trade, and Control in Orange County: Comments and Observations


No other issue in Orange County archaeology has been as intense and sustained as that surrounding the question of prehistoric jasper procurement/ trade/control. The once-conventional wisdom that jasper recovered from Orange County sites was obtained in trade from desert regions to the east (McKinney 1967:27) went uncontested (e.g.. Hudson 1969:27) until Cottrell published her view that Orange County entrepreneurs procured the resource directly from the deserts (Cottrell and Del Chario 1984: 59), thereby sparking a debate that included even source provenience as a point of contention (Koerper and Fife 1985). The controversy continues, focusing on the following related hypotheses: (1) jasper found at Tomato Springs, Orange County (Fig. 1), was procured by local entrepreneurs engaged in forays into the Mojave Desert or beyond to acquire unmodified stone weighing as much as 11.67 kg. and (2) the Tomato Springs site (CAOra-244) was the primary or sole center for production and distribution of artifacts of jasper in coastal southern California (Cottrell 1985). Two critiques of Cottrell's jasper procurement/trade scenario (Koerper et al. 1987; Shackley 1987) posed numerous questions regarding lithic procurement, resource control, and tool manufacture. A recent commentary (Cottrell and Wagner 1990) neglected most of the concerns proffered by Koerper et al. (1987) and Shackley (1987) but rather focused on macroscopic and microscopic examination of Tomato Springs material to conclude that the Ora-244 jaspers are allochthonous to the Peninsular Ranges and therefore must have come from either the Mojave or Colorado desert. Here, we discuss those important issues not addressed by Cottrell and Wagner (1990). Next, petrological, petrographical, paleontological, and geochemical observations are offered to support a hypothesis of local jasper procurement. Included are data derived from scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive x-ray analysis (EDX) that indicate a high degree of correlation in morphology, crystallinity, and trace element chemistry between a sample of local float jasper and a debitage specimen from Ora-244.

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