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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 22, Issue 1, 2000

Issue cover


An Addendum to Harrington's Northern Salinan Place Names

Rivers and Jones (1993) reported the locations of 21 place names in the upper San Antonio Valley and adjacent coast of Monterey County, California, that were noted by Salinan speakers in John Peabody Harrington's field notes from 1922 to 1932. Surface reconnaissance and review of recently completed archaeological survey reports have led to the identification of 11 additional Salinan places in the upper San Antonio Valley and refinement in the location of three others. Archaeological sites in the vicinity of named places tentatively suggest that Salinan settlements are marked by clusters of small middens and bedrock mortars.

Paleoarchaic Surface Assemblages in the Great Salt Lake Desert, Northwestern Utah

The primary purpose of this article is to present new data regarding igneous toolstone use patterns and lithic reduction/production practices as evidenced by a recently recovered sample of Great Basin Stemmed projectile points, in order to improve our understanding of the basic Terminal Pleistocene/Early Holocene settlement systems associated with the central Great Salt Lake Desert. Great Basin Paleoarchaic settlement and subsistence practices, as well as temporal affiliations of different stemmed point styles, are poorly understood. For the most part, this situation results from a dearth of excavated cultural deposits and a poorly defined projectile point tradition.

Puvunga and Point Conception: A Comparative Study of Southern California Indian Traditionalism

The case of Puvunga in southern California offers interesting examples of how anthropological scholarship may have an impact on ethnogenic processes. Interpretations of the Puvunga tradition are traced over a span of nearly two centuries, showing that twentieth century anthropologists offered differing reconstructions of the location, nature, and cultural impact of Puvunga. Some of these interpretations have proven crucial to the ethnogenic aspirations of certain social groups, especially Native Americans. While some anthropological interpretations of Puvunga currently enjoy wide popularity, all observers should be cautious about ascribing objective reality to these, or any, reconstructions of Puvunga. Anthropologists, in particular, need to understand better how their research models, advanced initially as provisional academic constructs, may take on wholly different functions among groups seeking to forge ethnic or cultural identities.

Comment on "Puvunga and Point Conception..." by Matthew A. Boxt and L. Mark Raab

It seems clear from how this article evolved that the basic subject is Boxt and Raab's views of the Puvunga issues. I find that their analysis is too flawed and superficial to be used in a comparative study and is misleading as a presentation of the issues. Therefore, my main purpose is to correct some errors and misrepresentations of data and to point out that they omitted important information that is contrary to their views. The rest of this comment is a summary of how the article evolved and the situation on campus which may account for errors.

Comments on "Puvunga and Point Conception: A Comparative Study of Southern California Indian Traditionalism," by Matthew A. Boxt and L. Mark Raab

In commenting on the Boxt and Raab article, the primary point I raise here concerns the competence of contemporary archaeological research. I think it is naive to think that we can practice a totally objective archaeology that is divorced from the social concerns, political pressures, and funding constraints of today. Archaeological research is conducted for a variety of reasons and for divergent clients and funding agencies. Collaboration with involved stakeholders, especially native peoples who have a vested interest in the archaeological record, will continue to increase. I have no problem with archaeologists working closely with native groups to identify sacred sites or places, to assist them in becoming federally recognized, to develop strong and legitimate claims for the repatriation of culturally affiliated skeletal remains, associated funerary objects, and sacred objects, or to help them negotiate or promote their native identities to the broader public. My problem is with poor, sloppy, and/or inexcusable archaeological research.

A Comment on "Puvunga and Point Conception: A Comparative Study of Southern California Indian Traditionalism," by Matthew A. Boxt and L. Mark Raab

The central point of Boxt and Raab's article lies in the assertion that "widely held understanding of Puvunga are almost entirely a product of anthropological scholarship. This fact is rarely acknowledged" (p. 63). They claim that the "exact location of this community and its archaeological remains were unknown until J. P. Harrington announced his discovery to the academic world 60 years ago: Puvunga had been located" (p. 51). This is nonsense.


Eugene Ruyle and Keith Dixon, long-time advocates of Puvunga-related issues and members of the Anthropology Department at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), are active stakeholders in the current debate. Since Ruyle and Dixon also offer the most critical reviews of our article, we turn our attention to their comments first. Although Ruyle and Dixon emphasize somewhat different issues, they reflect quite similar lines of commentary. The reader will notice, for instance, that Ruyle and Dixon essentially ignore the major points made by our article. Instead, both commentators adopt a strategy favored by trial lawyers: If you cannot refute your opponent's arguments directly, distract the jury with confusing side issues and character assassination. These diversionary tactics are designed to destroy the credibility of our article on three grounds: it leaves out vital information; we are guilty of sloppy scholarship; and we are "hired guns," somehow enticed by the administration of CSULB to propagate ideas inimical to Native Americans and historic preservation. Let us look at these charges more closely.

The Ventriloquist's Dummy: A Critical Review of Shamanism and Rock Art in Far Western North America

Interpretive rock art studies are currently dominated by the neuropsychological or shamanistic model (Lewis-Williams and Dowson 1988). The strength of this approach is assessed herein through a critical reappraisal of David Whitley's shamanistic interpretation of California and Great Basin rock art (Whitley 1992, 1994a, 1994b, 1994c, 1996, 1998a, 1998b). Whitley's work seemingly represents one of the most persuasive examples of the ability of the shamanistic model to generate compelling interpretations of rock art. His work has also been cited by Lewis- Williams and Dowson (1988) as providing important independent confirmation of the general validity of their approach. However, reexamination of Whitley's ethnographic sources suggests that they offer poor support for a shamanistic interpretation.

Reponse to Quinlan

In the following, available space allows me to focus on only a few of the key issues, taken on a regional and topical basis, rather than a point-by-point tabulation and correction of Quinlan's systematic errors. But once Quinlan's central factual misrepresentations and mistakes are outlined—and the nature of his commentary is unmasked—it becomes apparent that shamanism remains the most robust ethnographic interpretation for recent rock art.

Reply to Whitley

Whitley suggests that I "misrepresent" both his research and the ethnographic record of California and the Great Basin. Yet Whitley's vigorous responses to my unpublished articles (cited in his comment) has, I feel, presented a rather misleading impression of my research. Whitley claims that my research continues a "hundred-year-long history of implicitly racist attitudes in American archaeology" (Whitley et al. 1999:17) and that I advocate "archaeology for academic Euro-Americans but not Native Americans" (Whitley 2000:31). Given the central role that ethnography plays in my critical appraisal of Whitley's shamanic interpretation of California and Great Basin rock art, such conclusions are hard to maintain.

Instead, I disagree that Whitley's metaphoric re-analysis of the relevant ethnography demonstrates the visionary basis of rock art imagery in these regions. In my opinion, Whitley's approach pays insufficient attention to negative evidence and uses culturally specific information too broadly as an ethnographic analogy explicating the contexts of historic and prehistoric rock art production. This trait is exemplified by the way Whitley seems to believe that Monache and Yokuts ethnography can provide a template for understanding all California and Great Basin rock art.


A Terminal Middle Period Site Near Purisima Point, Western Santa Barbara County, California

Two radiocarbon dates from CA-SBA-699, a site located near Purisima Point on Vandenberg Air Force Base, indicate that it was occupied for a short interval of time around A.D. 1150. Analysis of a column sample taken from a seacliff exposure of midden deposits revealed that the population occupying this site depended mainly on black turban (Tegula funebralis) and California mussel (Mytilus californianus) for food resources, the former being dietarily more important than the latter. The dominance of black turban appears to reflect unique characteristics of the nearby shellfish communities rather than especially intensive shellfish collecting. Red abalone shells in the midden are reminiscent of Middle Holocene sites on the Channel Islands, where they appear to be indicative of cooler-than-present water temperatures. Their presence at CA-SBA-699, however, may be due to distinctive environmental conditions at Purisima Point. Although the site was occupied at the beginning of an environmentally stressful time known as the Middle-to-Late Period transition, no obvious evidence of subsistence stress is reflected in the faunal remains from the site.

Obsidian Studies in the Truckee Meadows, Nevada

The Truckee Meadows is a well-watered valley in western Nevada with archaeological evidence of aboriginal human occupation extending from 150 B.P. to about 10,000 B.P. Obsidian samples from 27 archaeological sites in and around the Truckee Meadows (401 individual specimens) have been analyzed for geochemical source determination, and 183 of these obsidian specimens have been analyzed for hydration rind thicknesses. A total of 20 different obsidian sources in seven distinct geographic localities is represented in the combined obsidian samples. Despite this great diversity, 46% of the sample obsidian was derived from local sources, while 38% was derived from the Mono Basin in southeast California. The remainder of the sample obsidian (16%) was derived from sources scattered throughout northeast California and northwest Nevada, as well as from several unidentified sources. No temporal trends or shifts in the utilization of particular obsidian sources are apparent in the sample. Hydration rind thicknesses vary from 0.8 to 9.8, but the data for Sutro Springs obsidian suggest that hydration rind thickness is an unreliable technique for determining the age of obsidian artifacts, whether relative or absolute.


Jennings: Glen Canyon: An Archaeological Summary

Glen Canyon: An Archaeological Summary. Jesse D. Jennings. Foreword by Don D. Fowler. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1998 (reissue), foreword (ix-xix), preface (xxixxiv), +131 pp., 1 fig., 10 maps, 40 photographs, bibliography, $14.95 (paper).