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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Intensified Middle Period Ground Stone Production on San Miguel Island


Specialized shell bead manufacture is a defining characteristic of Late Period (A.D. 1300 to 1782) Chumash society. While bead manufacturing has been well studied, other items of economic importance have received less attention by archaeologists. This report is a discussion of a quarry and associated habitation site (CA-SMI-503/504) on San Miguel Island, where mortar and pestle manufacture took place. The data show that production was centered at the quarry site while 16 other sites in the region show some evidence of manufacture. Radiocarbon dates place intensified production to the later part of the Middle Period (A.D. 580 to 980). It is suggested that the manufacture of mortars and pestles at this time was conducted by part-time, community-based specialists.

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