Aboriginal Alpine Ceremonialism in the White Mountains, California
At 3,609 m. (11,840 ft.) elevation in the White Mountains of Eastern California is a site containing 216 rock features consisting of cairns, pits, and other stacked-rock constructions but very few artifacts. Two obsidian bifaces, two milling tools, and lichenometric dating point towards site occupation between 440 and 190 cal B.P., contemporaneous with the White Mountains Village Pattern, which was marked by intensive seasonal occupations of multi-family groups in the alpine ecozone of the range. Though the site’s features are similar to facilities associated with artiodactyl hunting across the American West, their diversity, abundance, and distribution are more consistent with ceremonially-oriented sites on the Plains, in the Mojave Desert, and especially on the Plateau. This, in conjunction with the site’s setting, suggests that there were ritual functions associated with the site, and that the ceremonial use of high-altitudes has been overlooked in the region’s research history.