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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Fish Tales from the Ballona: The Role of Fish Along the Mainland Coast of Southern California


Using a robust data set from a series of Native American sites in the Los Angeles Basin, we explore whether these coastal settlements are best characterized as representing maritime or littoral adaptations. In doing so, we examine the range of food exploited, while focusing attention on the relative role of fish, marine mammals, and terrestrial mammals in these subsistence economies. We conclude that the uniformly low exploitation of marine mammals and fish—and deep sea fish in particular—in this coastal southern California setting and many others south of Malibu is due in large part to the rich terrestrial and littoral resources of the area. As such, these more readily available foods were consistently favored over the higher risk and labor investment strategy that typifies exploitation of offshore resources. We conclude with a broader consideration of differences and similarities between Los Angeles Basin adaptations and those in other settings within southern California.

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