Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 17, Issue 2, 1995

Issue cover


Mountain Sheep in the Sky: Orion's Belt in Great Basin Mythology

Mountain Sheep in the Sky is a referent phrase used by older Numic people to refer to the stars of the constellation Orion. Fragments of the tale of a hunt in which these stars are featured were recorded in the Great Basin from before 1900 to the 1940s in different variants. An attempt is made to relate these fragments to demonstrate what may have been a widespread tale type. Its demise may be related to the general demise of star tales—perhaps due to shifts in native educational priorities.

Cabrillo, the Chumash, and Old World Diseases

Focusing on the Chumash, we examine the potential impacts of Old World epidemic diseases on protohistoric peoples of the southern California coast. Our study indicates that: (1) coastal peoples would have been highly susceptible to Old World disease epidemics; (2) native contacts with several sixteenth and seventeenth century European maritime expeditions were extensive; and (3) Old World diseases also were closing in on protohistoric California from the Southwest, Mexico, and Baja California. There is little clear evidence that Old World diseases devastated California's coastal tribes in the protohistoric period, but archaeologists have invested little energy searching for such evidence. We propose three models of protohistoric disease impacts to be tested with archaeological data, examine some problems in identifying protohistoric archaeological components along the California coast, and outline some archaeological patterns that might be linked to disease epidemics and associated cultural changes.

The Shoshone Ghost Dance and Numic Myth: Common Heritage, Common Themes

The outer form and inner meaning of Wind River Shoshone Ghost Dance are shaped by conceptions of nature and the relationship of people to the natural world. This paper examines Numic conceptions and images of nature in myth, shamanism, the Round Dance, and the Shoshone Ghost Dance, noting their close correspondence. Topics include the circle of nature and power, the power of song, dance, and language, nature and metaphor, and death and resurrection. Underlying concerns for food, weather, and health in myth, shamanism, the Round Dance, and Shoshone Ghost Dance songs further attest to the Numic nature of Wovoka's Ghost Dance religion and its performance by Wind River Shoshone in this century.

A Milling-Implement Quarry at Elephant Mountain, California

Tabular slabs of porphyritic hornblende andesite from Elephant Mountain were shaped into aboriginal milling stones and pestles and carried to living and processing locations in the Mojave River region. The milling-implement quarry at Elephant Mountain, first described by Nuez in 1819, was identified archaeologically and subsequently studied. Worked slabs of andesite, broken and discarded preforms, andesite debitage, and hammerstone quarrying and production tools characterize the archaeological deposit at the quarry. Production technology differs somewhat from that employed at other milling-implement quarries. It is proposed that the long-term retention of the abrasive quality of the Elephant Mountain stone made it especially useful for milling. Milling stones from the Hinkley site, about 15 mi. upstream on the Mojave River, originated at Elephant Mountain, as demonstrated by thin-section petrography. Certain lines of evidence suggest that the Elephant Mountain stone may have been exploited as early as 3,500 B.P., that it may have been used by groups expressing or influenced by material culture traits of the Lower Colorado River region, and that the quarry may not be unique in the region. Sourcing of milling implements to their quarry has the potential to add to our understanding of regional prehistoric economic and social networks.

Functional Attributes and the Differential Persistence of Great Basin Dart Forms

Since the early 1970s, Great Basin archaeologists have debated projectile point chronology, most specifically focusing on the duration of certain types in different parts of the Basin. Large corner-notched types play a central role in this debate, since in some areas they appear during the Early Holocene and persist until recent times, while in other areas they represent much shorter time spans. Further, the occurrence of large side-notched types is limited primarily to those areas in which the large corner-notched types have long temporal distributions. This paper examines the component attributes of large side-notched and corner-notched point types and offers a functional explanation for their differential distribution in time and space.

The Dry Susie Creek Site: Site Structure of Middle Archaic Habitation Features from the Upper Humboldt River Area, Nevada

This article first summarizes some information concerning the site and the recovered remains, including the habitation features. The site structure of the household activity areas is then explored by examining the distribution of the recovered remains. The site structure discussion relies on comparisons with the results of ethnoarchaeological studies of the use of space by modern hunter-gatherers and analogies based on ethnohistoric and ethnographic sources. The remaining sections explore the season of site occupation and the settlement organization, including mobility, predation, and technology of the prehistoric inhabitants of Dry Susie Creek.


A Reassessment of Early "Prelittoral" Radiocarbon Dates from the Southern Northwest Coast

Early radiocarbon dates of 8,310 ± 110 B.P. from the Neptune site and 6,880 ± 80 B.P. and 7,960 ± 90 B.P. from Tahkenitch Landing on the central Oregon coast were obtained from below shell midden deposits and have been cited as evidence of a "pre-littoral" adaptation in this region. However, association of the Neptune site date with human occupation is suspect, and the Tahkenitch Landing dates are associated with evidence of exploitation of marine resources in an adjacent estuary. No securely dated evidence currently exists for a "pre-littoral'' adaptation along the southern Northwest Coast.

Additional Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS) Radiocarbon Assays on Haliotis Fishhooks From CA-ORA-378

AMS radiocarbon assays confirm that shell fishhook and line fishing was a feature of early Late Holocene and Intermediate Cultures period subsistence technology in coastal Orange County. Other data support a similar development of coastal line fishing in southern and central California beginning no earlier than the third millenium B.P. However, limited data from San Clemente Island suggest shell fishhooks were employed prior to that time. We suggest that AMS dating be applied to San Clemente Island fishhooks to help clarify the relationship of the island data with established fishhook sequences for Orange County and other parts of California.


Heizer, Strandt, and the Effigy Controversy

Circumstantial evidence indicates that a number of southern California steatite effigies and effigy pipes of unusual composition (e.g., Burnett 1944) are probably forgeries, being either fantasy pieces or good pieces creatively altered for sale to antiquities dealers, collectors, and museums. A recent article by Georgia Lee (1993) focused on Robert Heizer's attempt to ferret out the hoaxers, and included correspondence among several scholars. Also reproduced were letters written by Herman F. Strandt, one of the three alleged culprits in this archaeological whodunit. The three, Strandt, Arthur R. Sanger, and O. T. Littleton, had all collected from sites and dealt commercially in artifacts. Whether Strandt, Sanger, and Littleton, either individually or as conspirators, faked prehistoric effigies is a question left unresolved by Lee (1993).


Hinton: Flutes of Fire: Essays on California Indian Languages

Flutes of Fires: Essays on California Indian Languages. Leanne Hinton. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 1994, 270 pp., $18.00 (paper).

Harper et al., eds.: Natural History of the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin

Natural History of the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin. K. T. Harper, Larry L. St. Clair, Kaye H. Thorne and Wilford M. Hess, eds. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1994, viii + 294 pp., 41 tables, 20 figures, $27.50 (hard cover).

Fowler: In the Shadow of Fox Peak: An Ethnography of the Cattail-Eater Northern Paiute People of Stillwater Marsh

In the Shadow of Fox Peak: An Ethnography of the Cattail-Eater Northern Paiute People of Stillwater Marsh. Catherine S. Fowler. Cultural Resource Series No. 5, U. S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 1, Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge. Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1992, xiv + 264 pp., 128 figs., 16 tables, 2 appendices, $24.00 (hard cover).

Sutton: Archaeological Investigations at Cantil, Fremont Valley, Western Mojave Desert, California; and Sutton, ed.: Archaeological Studies in the Goose Lake Area, Southern San Joaquin Valley, California

Archaeological Investigations at Cantil, Fremont Valley, Western Mojave Desert, California. Mark Q. Sutton, with contributions by Paul D. Bouey, John D. Goodman II, Margaret M. Lyneis, Karen K. Swope, and Robert M. Yohe II. Museum of Anthropology, California State University, Bakersfield, Occasional Papers in Anthropology No. 1, 1991, x + 225 pp., 74 figs., 67 tables, $10.00 (paper). Archaeological Studies in the Goose Lake Area, Southern San Joaquin Valley, California. Mark Q. Sutton, ed. Museum of Anthropology, California State University, Bakersfield, Occasional Papers in Anthropology No. 2, 1992, vi + 117 pp., 24 figs., 38 tables, $6.00 (paper).