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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Lithic Resource Control and Economic Change in the Santa Barbara Channel Region


The territory occupied by the Chumash and their prehistoric predecessors encompassed the northern Channel Islands and a large mainland area extending from modern San Luis Obispo to Malibu and inland to the western margin of the San Joaquin Valley. The region is characterized by significant physiographic, biotic, and geological diversity. Each of these dimensions of variability has implications for the forms of human adaptation that developed during the course of several millennia of prehistory. A changing biotic milieu may require significant strategic responses from human populations (Arnold 1990a), but human response to stationary physiographic and geological features generally is assumed to reflect the relatively static nature of such features. Through time, then, changes in human exploitation of fixed geological resources, such as quarry outcrops, may be evaluated in terms of evolving cultural strategies regarding their use. In short, diachronic patterns of extraction of undepleted nonorganic resources in a given place are a consequence of human decision-making changes, rather than a function of change in the resources themselves. I consider here a case in the Channel Islands region, where important stone resources indeed were not depleted.

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