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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 25, Issue 2, 2005

Issue cover


The Mixed Legacy of Mission Indian Agent S. S. Lawson, 1878-1883

As Mission Indian Agent from 1878 to 1883, S.S. Lawson presided over a "critical era" in the experience of Southern California Indians. The independent rancherias on private Mexican land grants and public domain lands were imperiled by the mid-1870s because of a surge in population associated with the coming of the railroad. Indian resources were under siege and many Indian communities faced imminent ejection. The federal government hesitated in formulating a reservation policy to secure Indians with trust lands for continued self-support Lawson was a conscientious, if ethnocentric, administrator who left his mark on history as a passionate advocate of a plan to consolidate the scattered communities on a single reservation. His informative correspondence with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and others during his tenure as agent provides a window into the legalized theft of Indian resources in Southern California, the efforts of Indians to defend their homelands, and the vacillations of federal policy-makers.

Ancestors, Ghosts, and Enemies in Prehistoric Baja California

Recent investigators have argued that the worship or veneration of lineage ancestors is a key to understanding the prehistoric archaeology of Baja California, and in particular the central peninsula's Great Mural rock art. However, a review of the ethnohistoric, ethnographic, and archaeological evidence favors a different interpretation—that prehistoric Baja Californians regarded the dead primarily as a source of danger to the living, to be avoided and forgotten rather than venerated, and that the human figures depicted in the Great Murals are more likely to have represented the painters' enemies than their ancestors.

Changes in Prehistoric Land Use in the Alpine Sierra Nevada: A Regional Exploration Using Temperature-Adjusted Obsidian Hydration Rates

Despite being flanked by the Great Basin and cismontane California, the Sierra Nevada has not played a prominent role in discussions of hunter-gatherer land use in either region. A key reason is the lack of archaeological data from pristine alpine areas, where little archaeological research has occurred. This study investigates high-elevation sites in the southern Sierra Nevada using temperature-adjusted obsidian hydration rates and comparisons to adjoining regions. Two distinct archaeological patterns are identified. The earlier (ca. 3,500 B.P.-1,350 B.P.) limited-use pattern is characterized by dense lithic scatters related to obsidian procurement and logistical hunting forays, most likely by small groups of men. The later (ca. 1,350 B.P.—historic contact) intensive-use pattern is typified by a greater variety of artifact and feature types indicative of a wider range of activities performed by more diverse groups. These broad archaeological patterns are compared to regional cultural developments on either side of the Sierra to investigate how large-scale changes in mobility, subsistence-settlement patterns, and obsidian procurement in core lowland areas influenced prehistoric use of the southern Sierra Nevada alpine zone.


An Asphaltum Coiled Basket Impression, Tarring Pebbles, and Middle Holocene Water Bottles from San Miguel Island, California

A stratified and deeply buried Middle Holocene shell midden (CA-SMI-396) on San Miguel Island recently produced evidence of the earliest securely dated water bottle and tarring pebbles in southern California. Several asphaltum basketry impressions, including what appears to be a fragment of a coiled basket, and two tarring pebble features were found eroding from shell midden deposits dating as early as 5130 cal BP. We suggest that water bottle production may have developed during the Middle Holocene on the Channel Islands, where fresh water resources were scarce, as a response to the relatively warm and dry periods of the Middle Holocene. The coiled basketry impression is unique for this time period in the Chumash area and its implications are difficult to assess.

A Fluted Point from Nipomo, San Luis Obispo County, California

An isolated fluted projectile point found in Nipomo (San Luis Obispo County, California) about 30 years ago was recently brought to the attention of the local archaeological community. Made from Monterey chert, the specimen exhibits single flute scars that extend about three quarters of the way up both faces, although it also shows clear evidence of blade and basal reworking. Attributes typical of fluted point technology—including heavy edge grinding/polishing on the lateral edge margins of the base, and a bi-concave basal cross-section—support a Paleoindian origin for the artifact.

Proximity and Provenance: A Lesson from the Sterling Cache, Idaho

Geochemical analysis of nine obsidian bifaces ("blanks") from the Sterling Cache, southern Idaho, was undertaken and the results contrast with the source (chemical type) ascription advanced for the specimens in the original report (Pavesic 1966). Trace element data show that obsidian from the closest source was not used to manufacture any of the artifacts in the cache, although three more distant obsidian sources (chemical types) are represented. These results provide another object lesson that proximity to 'source' is no guarantee that local provenance for artifact materials can reliably be inferred.

A Middle Holocene Radiocarbon Date and the Geologic Context of Human Occupation in the Tulare Lake Basin of California

In September 2001, during the course of an archaeological project on the western shore of Tulare Lake in Kings County, California, a human proximal phalanx of the left first digit of an adult of indeterminate sex was found in the wall of an irrigation canal in the Tulare Lake Basin, at a depth of ca. 180 cm. below the surface. The bone was subsequently radiocarbon dated to 4,360 ± 70 RCYBP (cal BP 5,270 to 5,170), making it the first human bone from the lake basin to be dated in this manner, and thereby adding to the sparse radiometric data base for Middle Holocene sites in the San Joaquin Valley. As an integral part of the cultural study, the geologic assessment of the project area demonstrated that intact archaeological deposits in this area of the lake basin would likely occur some distance west of the present 190-ft. elevation. Such deposits would also lie several feet below younger alluvial fan deposits.

J. P. Harrington Database Project: An Archival Resource for Anthropologists, Archaeologists, and Native Communities

John Peabody Harrington (1884-1961) collected over one million pages of linguistic and ethnographic notes from Native Americans during the first half of the twentieth century (for biographies, see Golla 1994b; Hinton 1994; Laird 1975; Stirling and Glemser 1963; Walsh 1976). Within a decade of his death most of his notes could be found at the National Anthropological Archives in Washington, DC. During the 1980s the materials, which had been organized by language, were microfilmed, along with Harrington's correspondence, creating an archival record of his work. The Papers of John P. Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution (Harrington 1981-1994). The microfilm collection of his notes is divided into nine volumes. Guides to this collection were created under the direction of Elaine L. Mills (Mills 1981-1985; Mills and Brickfield 1986-1989; Mills and MUls 1991). They contain lists of the languages within each "volume" and the associated reel numbers, the names of Native Americans interviewed by Harrington, general information about the times and places of the interviews, and common abbreviations he used.


Comment on Backes' "More than Meets the Eye: Fluorescence Photography for Enhanced Analysis of Pictographs"

In a recent issue, Backes (2004) presents an analysis of two pictographs sites in Kern County, California, using ultraviolet fluorescence photography. Two sites, CA-KER-735 and CA-KER-736, were thoroughly studied. Backes' innovative approach is a useful tool in pictograph site research. It has resulted in the identification of new elements that were previously invisible to the 'naked eye' or impossible to document through conventional photographic means. I applaud Backe's efforts. My comments here are aimed at clarifying several minor yet significant contextual, classificatory, and interpretive matters, rather than in disagreeing with his technical methods or results per se.

Lost and Found

The Passing of the Old Ceremonial Dances of the Southern California Indians

There are two items of interest in this installment of Lost and Found. The first is an empathetic and rather evocative article describing the mourning rituals surrounding the death of Cinon Duro of Mesa Grande almost a century ago. An abbreviated version of this article was published anonymously in the Washington Post on October 20,1907, and later reprinted by Robert Heizer in a collection entitled Some Last Century Accounts of the Indians of Southern California (Ballena Press, 1976). The longer, more detailed version reprinted here originally appeared in the Southern Workman, Vol 37, No. 10, pp. 527-538 (Oct. 1908). Unfortunately, six photographs that originally accompanied the article could not be adequately reproduced and have been deleted.


Sauvel and Elliott: 'Isill Héqwas Wáxish: A Dried Coyote's Tail

The co-author of A Dried Coyote's Tail, the linguist Eric Elliott, is a young scholar whose contributions to our knowledge of the Takic language family are already outstanding. While a student at the University of California, San Diego, he collaborated with the Luiseno elder Villiana Hyde m publshing a 1400-page volume of Luisefio texts (Hyde and EUiott 1994); for his dissertation, he then compUed a three-volume, 1800-page dictionary of Luiseno (Elliott 1999). More recently, with Serrano elder Dorothy Ramon, he has published a volume of Serrano texts (2000). His collaboration with Kathy Sauvel for the present volume mvolved taping 960 texts as spoken by Kathy, then working closely with her to transcribe and translate them. The results are published here in a Cahullla-English interlinear format.

Anderson: Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources

Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources. M. Kat Anderson. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. xxix + 526 pp. $39.95.

Kennett: The Island Chumash, Behavioral Ecology of a Maritime Society

The Island Chumash, Behavioral Ecology of a Maritime Society Douglas J. Keimett. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005.310 pp., 22 b/w photographs, 23 line illustrations, 15 maps, 20 tables, $60 (cloth).

Campbell: Survival Skills of Native California

Survival Skills of Native California Paul D. Campbell. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 1999. XV -I- 448 pp., hundreds of photographs and text figures, maps, bibliography.