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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Archaeological Evidence of Eagles on the California Channel Islands


Historical records show that bald eagles (Haliæetus leucocephalus) once inhabited all eight California Channel Islands. Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), however, do not appear in historical records as island residents. This study presents results of a search for prehistoric evidence of eagles in archaeological materials excavated from the California Channel Islands, along with brief biographical notes about the archaeologists who found them. Thirteen eagle talons from three islands were found in archeological collections of four institutions and identi ed as to species. Ten talons were from Santa Cruz Island, two were from San Nicolas Island, and one was from Santa Rosa Island, and they proved to be a mix of both bald eagle and golden eagle talons. They were found in materials excavated between 1875 and 1928 by Paul Schumacher, Steven Bowers, David Banks Rogers, George Albert Streeter, and Ronald Leroy Olson. One talon was decorated with asphaltum and olivella shell beads; ve were drilled with a hole for wearing as adornment; seven appeared to be unmodi ed. An eagle talon presence in archaeological remains cannot be assumed to be evidence of prehistoric eagle occupation of these islands, as island dwellers had well-developed trade networks through which talons may have been traded. Additional talons and other eagle remains undoubtedly will be identi ed in the future in faunal remains from Channel Islands archaeological sites.

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