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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evidence for a Prehistoric Mola mola Fishery on the Southern California Coast


Numerous previously unidentified bony ossicles recovered from two archaeological sites in the Southern California channel islands (CA-SCLI-43, Eel Point on San Clemente Island and CA-SCAI-17, Little Harbor on Santa Catalina Island), as well as at a Santa Barbara County coastal site, are now known to be remains of the giant ocean sunfish Mola mola (Linnaeus 1758), a creature which can weigh more than 3000 pounds. This compels reevaluation of fish resources and fishing technology available to the earliest inhabitants of the southern archipelago and coast as well as reassessment of certain lines of thought about resource intensification. Although a few cursory and sometimes divergent analyses of fishbone recovered from these sites have been published, our identification of large quantities of Mola elements impacts current understanding of prehistoric resource abundance, fishing technique, and possibly even human health and mortality.

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