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A Test of Ideal Free Distribution Predictions Using Targeted Survey and Excavation on California's Northern Channel Islands

  • Author(s): Jazwa, Christopher S
  • Kennett, Douglas J
  • Winterhalder, Bruce
  • et al.
Abstract

Using targeted survey, excavation, and radiocarbon dating, we assess the extent to which human settlement patterns on California’s northern Channel Islands fit predictions arising from the ideal free distribution (IFD): (1) people first established and expanded permanent settlements in the regions ranked high for environmental resource suitability; (2) as population grew, they settled in progressively lower ranked habitats; and (3) changes in the archaeological record associated with high population levels such as increases in faunal diversity and evenness in high-ranked habitats are coinci- dent with the expansion to other areas. On Santa Rosa Island, the early permanent settlements were located in both high- and middle-ranked locations, with the most extensive settlement at the highest ranked locations and only isolated sites elsewhere. Settlement at a low-ranked habitat was confined to the late Holocene (after 3600 cal BP). Drought influenced the relative rank of different locations, which is an example of climate adding a temporal dimension to the model that episodically stimulated popu- lation movement and habitat abandonment. Because the IFD includes a wide range of cultural and environmental variables, it has the potential to be a central model for guiding archaeological analysis and targeted field research.

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