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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 22, Issue 2, 2000

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The Influence of Sacred Rock Cairns and Prayer Seats on Modern Klamath and Modoc Religion and World View

The focus of this article is the spiritual and symbolic significance of two categories of Klamath and Modoc sacred sites: rock cairns and prayer seats. Both site types are generally associated with the traditional practice of the vision quest among the Klamath and Modoc peoples of southern Oregon and northern California. Both tribes, along with the Yahooskin Paiute—recognized federally as the Klamath tribes—are concerned with the protection and preservation of these important sacred sites. After a background discussion focusing on the cultural distribution of cairns and prayer seats, a discussion of the various functional precontact traditional types of rock cairns and prayer seats found in association with some cairns is reviewed. Next, discussions concerning the modern cultural significance of cairns and prayer seats and the continuing practice of erecting cairns are presented. Finally, the importance of rock cairns and prayer seats to the shaping of modem Klamath and Modoc world view is discussed.

"Now Dead I Begin to Sing": A Protohistoric Clothes-Burning Ceremonial Feature in the Colorado Desert

The discovery of a well-preserved ceremonial feature at CA-IMP-6427 (the Elmore Site) provided the rare opportunity and special privilege to investigate the archaeological remains of a specific mortuary ritual, the Kumeyaay watlma or clothes-burning ceremony. Burned remains of a female's bark skirt, yucca cordage carrying net, possible yucca sandal fragments, painted ceramic jar, hundreds of shell beads, and a shell pendant were found in a charcoal-filled pit within a Protohistoric Period temporary camp on the receding shoreline of Lake Cahuilla. That this feature could be identified with such certainty is due to several fortunate circumstances. The excellent preservation and spatial separation of the feature from the main occupation area made it possible to interpret it as the remains from a single event in time and space. The well-established late dates of the site and feature (A.D. 1600 to 1700) make an association with the Kumeyaay highly probable, although an affiliation with Delta Yumans is also considered below. Finally, the well-documented examples of Yuman mortuary ritual make an identification of the feature virtually certain. What makes the feature even more significant is the possibility to address aspects of gender and status among the prehistoric ancestors of the modem Kumeyaay, as well as the context of mortuary ceremonies within Late Prehistoric Period settlement systems.

Historic Chumash Settlement on Eastern Santa Cruz Island, Southern California

Chumash consultants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century named 10 historic villages on Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the Northern Channel Islands. Locational information for many of these villages is clear and archaeological sites with historic components substantiate their existence. Swaxil, reportedly the largest village on the Northern Channel Islands, was associated with Scorpion Anchorage on the eastern end of the island. Its existence has eluded archaeological detection and led to speculation that the historic locational information for this important village was incorrect. The authors recently recovered historic artifacts from archaeological deposits at the mouth of Scorpion Anchorage, substantiating the ethnohistoric claims of Swaxil's existence at this location. Furthermore, it is argued that the two archaeological sites at Smugglers Cove and Smugglers Point, located to the southeast of Scorpion Anchorage, are the remnants of Nanawani, the other village name associated with eastern Santa Cruz Island.

Redefining the Working Assumptions of Obsidian Hydration Dating

Recent experimental work has shown that the rate of hydration is significantly influenced by the amount of intrinsic water (0H-) contained within the unweathered obsidian. A value for the intrinsic water concentration may be obtained through a nondestructive measurement of glass density, thereby permitting obsidian hydration rates to be determined for individual artifacts. As a result of these discoveries, many of the assumptions used in the normal application of obsidian hydration dating are now in need of revision. This article presents a revised set of working assumptions and procedures for implementation of the obsidian dating method and evaluates the ability of calibrations to produce chronometric dates that correspond with radiocarbon assays.

Morphological and Temporal Variations in Bifurcate-Stemmed Dart Points of the Western Great Basin

There continues to be controversy regarding the typological affinities and temporal placement of bifurcate-stemmed dart points across much of the Great Basin. Morphological analysis of 688 projectile points from eight localities suggests that much of this variation conforms to two formal expressions, gracile artifacts equating to the Gatecliff Split-stem series in more northern areas and robust artifacts consistent with historical descriptions of the Pinto series in the southwestern Great Basin. Available chronological data place Pinto forms significantly earlier than their gracile counterparts. Empirical assessment of material profiles further implies that morphological variation among Pinto points can be explained in terms of toolstone availability and knapping qualities, which alter blade form more profoundly than stem/shoulder characteristics. This may have general implications for debates concerning artifact recycling trajectories, typological integrity, and the utility of dart points as time markers.

The Acquisition of Nonlocal Lithic Material by the Uinta Fremont

The Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah provide a formidable natural barrier, as well as a convenient boundary to delineate culture groups and areas. While the Uintas do form a significant obstacle to human movement, evidence indicates a long and abundant record of human activity in this mountain range. Rather than a barrier, the rain-gathering mountains may have served as an oasis in a generally dry land. The initial model for use of the Uintas argued that groups from southwestern Wyoming were primarily responsible for the presence of prehistoric materials. This model may be too simplistic, and new evidence is presented that suggests Fremont peoples in the Uinta Basin directly accessed toolstone sources in southwestern Wyoming and on the north slope of the Uintas.

Trans-Holocene Subsistence Strategies and Topographic Change on the Northern California Coast: The Fauna from Duncans Point Cave

There has been considerable debate in recent years concerning the nature and consequences of prehisoric marine mammal exploitation along the Pacific coast of North America. Preliminary data from the vertebrate faunal assemblage from the northern California coastal site of Duncans Point Cave (CA-SON- 348/H) has been included in this debate. Detailed analysis of the mammal remains from Duncans Point Cave indicates a high frequency of juvenile seals and sea lions, suggesting that rookeries were accessible to the prehistoric inhabitants of the site. Changes in the shellfish assemblage suggest that profound environmental and topographic changes have occurred there. With little evidence supporting intensification or diet breadth expansion, an understanding of topographic changes, such as coastal erosion, is necessary to explain the patterns seen in this faunal assemblage.


Prehistoric Pipes from the Olds Ferry Dunes Site (10-WN-557), Western Idaho

This report discusses five prehistoric pipes recovered from a mortuary assemblage identified in western Idaho. They are described and interpreted within a New World ritual context centered on tobacco, smoke, and pipe function.

Northern Fish Lake Valley and the Volcanic Tablelands of Owens Valley: Two Minor Sources of Obsidian in the Western Great Basin

Obsidian samples from two locations in the western Great Basin, the northern Fish Lake Valley and the Volcanic Tablelands in northern Owens Valley, were collected and analyzed using Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis. These locations had not previously been described as sources of obsidian, although they contain small, weathered nodules on the surface. Obsidian from the former provides a chemical signature distinct from all other previously documented sources in the area, while the latter is chemically similar to obsidian from the Mono Glass Mountain area. Variability in Tablelands obsidian sheds light on the distribution and availability of Mono Glass Mountain obsidian and suggests the presence of a distinct subsignature on the Tablelands. The dispersed nature and small size of nodules in both areas probably precluded intensive use, but minor exploitation may have been important in the flaked stone economy of prehistoric inhabitants of the region. Recognizing these sources in regional obsidian studies should help refine models of prehistoric exchange and mobility.

AMS Radiocarbon Dating of Shell Beads and Ornaments from CA-ORA-378

Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates for nine shell beads and two shell ornaments are used to test the application to Orange County of a temporal sequence developed for the Santa Barbara Channel region. Olivella cupped, Olivella oblique spire-removed, Olivella end-removed, Mytilus disc, and Megathura small square ring and Megathura oval ring beads/ornaments fell within time ranges predicted by the bead/ornament chronology developed by Chester King (1981, 1990) for the Chumash area. Olivella biplicata barrels and caps seem not to have been occurrences of King's Late Middle or Late periods in Orange County, but rather there appears to have been a switch to Gulf of California Olivella dama shells for local barrel and cap manufacture.

A Radiocarbon Chronology for the Arozena Site (CA-SBA-141), Eastern Santa Barbara County, California

Located above Rincon Creek on the Santa Barbara coast, CA-SBA-141 produced an artifact assemblage that was important in the development of a cultural historical sequence for the Chumash region (Harrison 1964). This report documents the first radiocarbon dates for Harrison's collections, which suggest that the site was occupied at least twice, once at roughly 7,600 years ago and again around 5,000 years ago. What Harrison interpreted as an intermediate site dating to the Middle Holocene appears to have been a multicomponent site mixed by bioturbation, grading, and agricultural practices.

Flaked Stone Basalt Technology in the Northern Sierra Nevada of California

A replicative experimental study was carried out with the intention of elucidating the best technological strategies for producing Middle Archaic basalt projectile points and bifaces. This work led to an appreciation of the difficulties of working with Sierran basalts, as well as an admiration for the skills of Middle Archaic knappers. The study shows that, despite the technical challenges, expediency was not the sine qua non of Middle Archaic technology in the northern Sierra Nevada, and provides insight into regional archaeological assemblages.

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.


Glassow: Purisimeno Chumash Prehistory: Maritime Adaptions Along the Southern California Coast

Purisimeno Chumash Prehistory: Maritime Adaptations Along the Southern California Coast. Michael A. Glassow. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1996, xiv + 170 pp., 27 figs., 3 tables, $25.00 (paper).

Lee: Walking Where We Lived: Memoirs of a Mono Indian Family

Walking Where We Lived: Memoirs of a Mono Indian Family. Gaylen D. Lee. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998, vi + 208 pp., 30 black and white photographs, 2 maps, $23.95 (hard cover), $10.95 (paper).

Ritter, ed.: Rock Art Studies in the Great Basin

Rock Art Studies in the Great Basin. Eric W. Ritter, ed. Salinas, CA: Coyote Press Archives of Great Basin Prehistory, No. 1, 1998, 124 pp., 50 figs., 11 tables, references, $15.00 (paper).

Clemmer et al., eds.: Julian Steward and the Great Basin: The Making of an Anthropologist

Julian Steward and the Great Basin: The Making of an Anthropologist. Richard O. Clemmer, L. Daniel Myers, and Mary Elizabeth Rudden, eds. University of Utah Press, 1999, 288 pp. bibliography, index, $45.00 (hard cover), $19.95 (paper).