Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Development of Pinyon Exploitation in Central Eastern California


Recent archaeological research in Owens Valley, eastern California, has revealed four archaeological phases spanning the period between 3500 B.C. and the historic period. Reconstruction of the prehistoric settlement-subsistence patterns during this interval showed that nuts of the pinyon pine, an important component of the historic diet in the region, were relatively ignored as a subsistence resource until sometime between A.D. 600 and A.D. 1000, when a distinctive procurement system developed around their exploitation (Table 4). Several factors which might account for this shift were explored. At present, there are two viable explanations, both of which view the inception of pinyon exploitation as an attempt to maintain a balance between population and resources. One is that there was a reduction in the pre-existing subsistence base; the other is that there was an increase in local population through natural growth or immigration. Climatic evidence appears to support the former view, while linguistic evidence supports the notion of population increases through immigration. It is also possible that these two factors are functionally related and that the increase in local population was due to immigration from localities more severely affected by an areawide warm-dry interval. These data fail to support Jennings' (1957, 1964, 1968) contention that Great Basin subsistence patterns incorporated all available resources and that this adaptation showed no fundamental changes through time, but tend to support the view that the human ecology of the region was quite variable through time and space.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View