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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Linguistic Prehistory and the Archaic-Late Transition in the Colorado Desert


Valid links between prehistoric material residues and the languages that were spoken by their creators are notoriously dif cult to establish. Nonetheless, linguistic evidence does set limits on the archaeological scenarios that are tenable concerning prehistoric ethnic stability, displacements, and interactions. In the Colorado Desert, several of the synchronically observed linguistic patterns can plausibly be connected to events that fell within a broadly de ned Archaic­Late transition period (ca. 1,000 B.C. to A.D. 1000). Most likely falling within this period and region were the splits within the Cupan and Serran groups of the Uto­Aztecan family and the Delta­California and River branches of the Yuman family. There are also at least a few hints concerning the geographical directions in which linguistic expansions occurred. In general, linguistic evidence suggests that the region was marked by relatively severe sociocultural instability throughout the late Holocene.

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