Geologic Setting and Prehistoric Settlement Patterning in the Central Sierra Nevada, California
This paper reports a study of geologic/hydrologic environmental association in the central Sierra Nevada and corresponding implications for prehistoric settlement patterning. Archaeological data suggest that native American populations in parts of the central Sierra Nevada situated most settlements along perennial steams and at midslope localities along the exposed contact between two superimposed geologic units: Pliocene volcanics resting atop Mesozoic granitic rocks of the Sierra Nevada batholith. Groundwater emerges as springs and stream flow along, or just downslope from, the contact. Above this geological nonconformity groundwater is not reliable year round. Thus, knowledge of the approximate location of the geological nonconformity effectively alerts the archaeologist to an environmental zone in which water sources (and sites) are likely to occur.