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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Foraging Ancient Landscapes: Seasonal and Spatial Variation in Prehistoric Exploitation of Plant and Animal Food Resources on Santa Cruz Island, California


In recent years, paleoethnobotanical research on the Northern Channel Islands of California has challenged long-held assumptions regarding the nature of aboriginal patterns of plant exploitation and helped re ne our understanding of prehistoric Chumash subsistence economies. Yet little effort has been made to systematically integrate paleoethnobotanical analyses and datasets with normative subsistence studies, which tend to focus on the abundant (and highly visible) shell sh remains that dominate archaeological assemblages on the Northern Channel Islands. I contend that understanding how the Island Chumash moved about and exploited prehistoric landscapes requires analysis of all subsistence remains—marine and terrestrial, faunal and oral—from multiple sites, site types, and stratigraphic contexts. In this article, I integrate chronological control on century and seasonal timescales with the analysis of well- preserved macrobotanical and faunal assemblages from multiple locations on Santa Cruz Island. These data reveal that variation over relatively short temporal and spatial scales structured foraging decisions and produced persistent and identi able patterns in the archaeological record. In this analysis, reconstruction of seasonal and spatial variation in quantity and array of primary plant and animal food resources exploited contributes to effective assessment of land use and mobility.

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