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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 23, Issue 2, 2001

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The Creation and Flute Lure Myths: Regional Patterns in Southern California Traditions

Among the ways in which traditional narratives shed light on prehistory, regional variations in shared myths provide insights concerning cultural conservatism or fluidity and the patterns of social interaction among groups. A comparative analysis of two myths recorded in numerous versions from southern California, western Arizona, and northern Baja California suggests that the region's traditional cultures were shaped by ongoing borrowing and innovation to a greater extent than has sometimes been supposed, and that individual narrative motifs typically had relatively short lifespans of a few centuries at most. Cultural interaction among the region's different peoples was evidently little constrained by disparate linguistic heritages, competing military alliances, or social and economic dissimilarities.

Donax Don't Tell: Reassessing Late Holocene Land Use in Northern San Diego County

This paper considers the two competing models of late Holocene settlement and subsistence on the northern San Diego County coast. A large body of regional data derived from single component site contexts at Camp Pendleton and surrounding areas suggest that neither the coastal decline nor the coastal intensification alternative is entirely accurate, and that a more detailed analysis of late Holocene land use is required. This synthesis draws parallels with other parts of the California coast as well as to interior regions of San Diego County. Evidence for intensive use of coastal resources is limited primarily to an interval corresponding to the Middle Period elsewhere in southern California. Late Period economies, on the other hand, appear to have had a terrestrial focus, with short-term seasonal occupations of the coastal zone directed primarily at the harvesting of bean clam (Donax gouldii) and other seasonally abundant resources.

Cactus Stones: Symbolism and Representation in Southern California and Seri Indigenous Fold Art and Artifacts

Ethnographic documentation of cactus use in Seri folk culture and the symbolic portrayal of cactus among these northern Mexican people provides a heuristic model for the interpretation of "cogged stones" and pictographic representations in Southern California.

Historical Memory and Ethnographic Perspectives on the Southern Paiute Homeland

We address the position maintained by contemporary Numic-speaking people (also Numu) that they have occupied the Great Basin and western Colorado Plateau since time immemorial. During this time they have learned about the land and become who they are today. Ethnohistoric and ethnographic data on the Southern Paiute are used to examine the Numic in situ development theory. Key issues in this argument are: (1) lack of a conquest story in their oral traditions; (2) the presence of optimal irrigated agriculture as recorded at the time of European contact; and (3) complex interethnic connections with neighboring groups. We propose that Numu people's perceptions of their land and ancestors may be taken as points of departure for formulating central hypotheses that address their origins and development.

High Elevation Land-Use on the Northern Wasatch Plateau, Manti-La Sal National Forest, Utah

Technological analysis of 23 lithic scatters and 138 isolated finds in the Central Skyline area, Manti-La Sal National Forest, central Utah, reveals upland use patterns from 9,000 B.P. until the mid-1800s. Lithic scatter location is bimodally distributed by elevation and production activities differ at higher and lower elevations. Elevation zone use intensity changed over time. Higher elevations were used more prior to 6,000 years B.P. (Late Paleoindian and Early Archaic periods), and have more discarded tools but less evidence of tool manufacture. Lithic raw material is mainly local chert. Lower elevations were used more after A.D. 400 (Formative and Late Prehistoric periods). More non-local obsidian debitage occurs at lower elevations, but tool manufacture used local chert. Topography and low intensity of use relative to other parts of the Wasatch Plateau suggest the area was an efficient travel route between the eastern Great Basin and the northern Colorado Plateau.

Changing Obsidian Sources at the Lost Dune and McCoy Creek Sites, Blitzen Valley, Southeast Oregon

Seventeen known and four unknown sources among 90 obsidian artifacts were identified from the Lost Dune and McCoy Creek sites on the east side of Blitzen Valley, Harney County, Oregon. Changing distributions and abundances of obsidian sources identified in four prehistoric periods (3,500-2,000 B.P, 2,000-500 B.P., A.D. 1400s and A.D. 1500s) suggest eastern Blitzen Valley people used a limited resource area in the middle two periods. For the period from 2,000 to 500 B.P, obsidian was identified only from sources in and adjacent to Harney Basin and in the northern Catlow Valley—the "western Malheur/Catlow" area. Then, briefly in the A.D. 1500s, pottery-using visitors brought to Lost Dune ample obsidian from sources well east of Harney Basin in the Owyhee River drainage.


Late Holocene Subsistence Strategies on the South Coast of Santa Barbara Island, California

CA-SBI-12, a small archaeological site occupied between about A.D. 1180 and 1390, is one of only two recorded archaeological sites on the south coast of Santa Barbara Island. A relatively limited faunal and artifact assemblage, consisting primarily of black abalone and owl limpet, with small amounts of fish, bird, and mammal remains, suggests that the site was a temporary or seasonal camp. Occupation of CASBI- 12 was brief and specialized, but data from other Santa Barbara Island sites suggest that the island was used for a variety of activities, including shellfish collecting, sea mammal hunting, fishing, and the production of ground and chipped stone tools for at least the last 4,400 years.

Spatial Interpretation of Site Formation Processes Using Soil Stratigraphic Relationships: An Example from North-Central Nevada, U.S.A.

The clear determination of soil stratigraphic relationships is critical to understanding artifact contexts. This perspective is best achieved by the precise, 3-dimensional, spatial delineation of soil/sediment bodies across the site, including compilation of a master soil stratigraphic sequence that reconciles both sedimentary and pedologic events and features. This study investigates these contexts at a site occupying alluvial terrace surfaces at the confluence of three ephemeral stream channels. Geoarchaeological investigation reveals 26 stratigraphic units, comprised of alluvial sediments, aeolian silts, volcanic ash, the horizons of five paleosols, and a recent surface soil. In addition to detailed stratigraphic descriptions, the construction of an isopach map reveals the complex character of the site's formation processes, and the resultant archaeological setting. The combination of terrace surfaces and at least three major depositional events, alternating with four individual soil episodes, allows for several artifact contexts to exist.

Archaeological Evidence for Post-Contact Native Religion: The Chumash Land of the Dead

Mortuary analysis of two related cemeteries in the southeastern Ventureno Chumash region suggests that, despite missionization, traditional private burial rituals were practiced postcontact. The dominant westerly orientation of the head in the Late Period Medea Creek cemetery (ca. 1300 -1785 C.E.) is still largely in evidence at the later Malibu Historic Period cemetery (1775 - 1805). Ethnographic data indicate a strong association between the direction of west, the spiritual travel of the soul, and the location of the Chumash land of the dead, which further associates with the westerly head orientation of burials.