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Sedentism, storage, and the intensification of small seeds: Prehistoric developments in Owens Valley, California

Abstract

Many archaeological models describe the development of restricted residential mobility, or sedentism, in prehistoric settings. Sedentism is often part of a suite of cultural changes, often accompanied by seed intensification, storage, population increase, environmental degradation, establishment of social hierarchy, and agriculture. Most models describe these changes as a series of events, with one precipitating the next. As a result, sedentism is interpreted as either a direct byproduct or a causative trigger of other societal changes. Results of excavations at the village site of Sunga'va (CA-INY-3806) are used to examine the timing of sedentism in relation to the development of storage and seed intensification in the Owens Valley of California. The site, which has evidence for two separate occupations from a period that has heretofore not been the subject of intensive research, suggests that sedentism developed at the same time or just before storage and some 800 years before seed intensification. Data do not support social models, such as the activity of aggrandizers or the stabilization of long-distance exchange networks, in these developments.

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