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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Paleoenvironmental Change at Elkhorn Slough: Implications for Human Adaptive Strategies


In this paper we will discuss the implications of small-scale paleoenvironmental change on prehistoric human populations residing in the coastal zone of central California. The subject area is central Monterey Bay; specifically, Elkhorn Slough, an estuary situated midway between Santa Cruz and Monterey, the mouth of which now forms part of the Moss Landing Harbor (Fig. 1). Although the slough is currently classified as an estuary, it has a complex hydrographic past related partially to sea-level rise and partially to other natural events. Over 40 sites have been recorded in the Elkhorn Slough area, all of which can generally be classified as shell middens, with shellfish remains constituting the bulk of cultural deposits. Analysis of data from two of these sites reveals a changing pattern of shellfish exploitation through time which correlates with the slough's hydrographic history.

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