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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An Asphaltum Coiled Basket Impression, Tarring Pebbles, and Middle Holocene Water Bottles from San Miguel Island, California


A stratified and deeply buried Middle Holocene shell midden (CA-SMI-396) on San Miguel Island recently produced evidence of the earliest securely dated water bottle and tarring pebbles in southern California. Several asphaltum basketry impressions, including what appears to be a fragment of a coiled basket, and two tarring pebble features were found eroding from shell midden deposits dating as early as 5130 cal BP. We suggest that water bottle production may have developed during the Middle Holocene on the Channel Islands, where fresh water resources were scarce, as a response to the relatively warm and dry periods of the Middle Holocene. The coiled basketry impression is unique for this time period in the Chumash area and its implications are difficult to assess.

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