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A Technological Approach to Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene Aquatic Adaptations in the Far West of North America

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A growing body of data suggests that the Western Stemmed Tradition and Island Paleocoastal Tradition likely originated from a Pacific Coastal migration from northeast Asia in the late Pleistocene. These two traditions are often considered as linked due to overlaps in crescent and stemmed point typology. While interior groups of the Western Stemmed Tradition did take large terrestrial game including artiodactyls, their subsistence pattern largely mirrors the broad spectrum aquatic diet of the Island Paleocoastal Tradition. Increasing evidence shows that both Island Paleocoastal Tradition peoples and interior Western Stemmed Tradition peoples made use of upland environments and resources, however their dominant settlement pattern was oriented near large bodies of water: the sea and inland pluvial lakes. Due attention has been given to technological systems associated with lithic reduction of the Western Stemmed Tradition in the Intermountain West, yet little technological analysis has been conducted on the California Channel Islands (largely due to the fact that late Pleistocene and early Holocene occupations were only relatively recently discovered). This dissertation focuses on a detailed technological analysis surrounding the organization of production of flaked stone tools across three of the best preserved sites associated with the Island Paleocoastal Tradition on California’s Channel Islands. Details of this technological system are then compared more broadly with mainland Western Stemmed Tradition finds. Additionally, as watercraft clearly played a significant role in the colonization and subsistence system of the earliest known islanders, replicative studies are used to evaluate the production dynamics associated with simple boating technology (the tule balsa) to address when and why people invest in boating. This study shows that even the simplest boats represent significant startup costs and therefore specific circumstances are needed to justify their manufacture and use. Additionally, parallels in the chaine operatoire/reduction sequence behind flaked stone tool production on the California Channel Islands and mainland Intermountain West suggest that the Island Paleocoastal Tradition should be considered a coastal variant of the broader Western Stemmed Tradition.

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This item is under embargo until August 10, 2023.