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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 23, Issue 1, 2001

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Desert Pavement and Buried Archaeological Features in the Arid West: A Case Study from Southern Arizona

The interpretation of surface artifact scatters presents a challenge to all archaeologists, including those •who work in the deserts of the American West. In some circumstances, a sufficiently dense and diverse artifact assemblage can indicate the presence of buried pit houses or other evidence of habitation (Czaplicki and Ravesloot 1989). At the opposite extreme, there are artifact scatters of low density and diversity that are often assumed to be exclusively surface manifestations, unlikely to be accompanied by significant subsurface remains. This is especially true when the artifacts are scattered on top of, or are incorporated in, desert pavement.

Cowry Shells: Fertility/Fecundity Symbols in Southern Calfiornia Iconography

Ornamental employment of Chestnut Cowry (Cypraea spadicea) shell artifacts in southern California prehistory included inlay work set into the rims of mortars and bowls. These and other observations are marshaled to develop circumstantial evidence pointing to a linkage of cowry shells with sex-based symbolism. More direct evidence from J. P. Harrington's notes connect the cowry symbolically to the vulva.

Myth as Ritual: Reflections from a Symbolic Analysis of Numic Origin Myths

Among the Numic-speaking people of the Great Basin region, sacred stories or myths are told within a strict ritual setting. Within this myth-telling context, three ritual events (i.e., male puberty, female puberty, and the marriage ceremony) are examined through a symbolic analysis of 25 variants of two series of Numic origin myth. This allows for an interpretation of myth and ritual as cultural modes of symbolic expression that form levels of native realities. The various ritual processes encoded in the origin myths are identified and interpreted in an over-all context of myth as ritual.

Evidence for a Prehistoric Mola mola Fishery on the Southern California Coast

Numerous previously unidentified bony ossicles recovered from two archaeological sites in the Southern California channel islands (CA-SCLI-43, Eel Point on San Clemente Island and CA-SCAI-17, Little Harbor on Santa Catalina Island), as well as at a Santa Barbara County coastal site, are now known to be remains of the giant ocean sunfish Mola mola (Linnaeus 1758), a creature which can weigh more than 3000 pounds. This compels reevaluation of fish resources and fishing technology available to the earliest inhabitants of the southern archipelago and coast as well as reassessment of certain lines of thought about resource intensification. Although a few cursory and sometimes divergent analyses of fishbone recovered from these sites have been published, our identification of large quantities of Mola elements impacts current understanding of prehistoric resource abundance, fishing technique, and possibly even human health and mortality.

Radiocarbon Chronology for Corona Del Mar (CA-SBA-54): A Middle Holocene Site on the Goleta Slough, Santa Barbara County, California

The Corona Del Mar site, a subject of archaeological inquiry since at least the 1920s, was fundamental to William Harrison's development of an archaeological sequence for the Santa Barbara Coast. Harrison, a pioneer in radiocarbon dating of California shell middens, excavated 21 test units at CA-SBA-54 but obtained no C14 dates. Here, we report on a suite of C14 dates recently obtained for Harrison's collections and peripheral deposits at CASBA- 54. The radiocarbon chronology suggests that the site contains at least two discrete Middle Holocene components, one dating between about 5900 and 5400 CYBP and another dated to approximately 4800 CYBP. The younger component validates aspects of Harrison's site chronology, but the earlier dates suggest that CA-SBA-54 was occupied contemporaneously and slightly earlier than the Aerophysics site (CA-SBA-53). Our results help contextualize the Corona Del Mar assemblage in relation to other sites in the Santa Barbara Channel area and the southern California Coast.

The Raymond's Dune Site: Its Place in the History of Southern Northwest Coast Archaeology

The Raymond's Dune site (35CU62) in Curry County, Oregon, is mainly known for a radiocarbon assay of 3,000 ± 90 B.P that for many years was the oldest archaeological radiocarbon date from the southern Northwest Coast. Although often mentioned in the archaeological literature, a comprehensive report on this site was never prepared. This article reconstructs the history of fieldwork at this site, bringing together information about the cultural deposits, pithouse feature, artifacts, and human skeletal remains found there. References to this site by L.S. Cressman and other archaeologists are reviewed and assessed in terms of current information. Although no longer one of the oldest known sites in the region, the Raymond's Dune site retains some importance for its small role in the history of southern Northwest Coast archaeology.

Testing a Simple Hypothesis Concerning the Resilience of Dart Point Styles to Hafting Element Repair

Experimental flintknappers have shown that it was possible for prehistoric hunters to repair basally damaged dart points by retouching the base to a different shape. Because dart points were highly curated tools and often manufactured of non-local, high utility toolstones, the lack of evidence in the archaeological record for basal retouch of one type into another is perplexing. We develop and test a hypothesis for the resistance of retouched bases to typological change, using a set of projectile point assemblages from northeastern Nevada. It is possible that the necessity of refitting repaired points to a limited supply of pre-prepared dart foreshafts constrained the retouch of broken points. If repair of a broken point required a hunter to modify its hafting element beyond limits feasible for reattaching it onto the foreshafts in hand, it was more economical for the hunter to simply replace the broken point. If so, such constraints to haft repair have implications for understanding why dart point base styles are spatially and temporally patterned.

Exchange Systems and Sociopolitical Complexity in the Central Sierra Nevada: Perspectives on the Impact of Coastal Colonization on Inland Communities

Diachronically oriented anthropologists have long studied the consequences of culture contact and the impact of previously separated cultural systems upon the structures and functions of each other. Colonization forms an important subset of such interactions (see, for example, Lightfoot 1995; Lightfoot and Martinet 1995). Relatively less attention has been paid to the effects of the commencement of colonization on societies lying outside of newly established colonial systems. This is such a case and and looks to understand it from several theoretical perspectives.


Elsasser and Rhode: Further Notes on California Charmstones

Further Notes on California Charmstones. Albert B. Elsasser and Peter T. Rhode. Coyote Press Archives of California Prehistory, Number 38. Salinas: Coyote Press, 1996. 144 pp., 15 figs., 3 charts, 1 sketch, 3 appendices, 1112.00 (paper).