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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 27, Issue 2, 2007

Volume 27 Issue 2 2007

Issue cover

Front Matter


Chumash Ritual and Sacred Geography on Santa Cruz Island, California

In contrast to the archaeological visibility of Chumash rock art on the mainland, its virtual absence on the northern Channel Islands is reflective of what little is understood about ritual behavior in island prehistory. By relying on relevant ethnohistoric and ethnographic references from the mainland, it is possible to evaluate how related activities may be manifested archaeologically on the islands. On Santa Cruz Island, portable ritual items and rock features have been identified on El Montahon and the North Ridge, the most prominent ridgelines on the northern islands Citing material correlates of ritual behavior, intentionally-made rock features are interpreted as possible shrines, which were an important aspect of winter solstice ceremonies among the mainland Chumash. Portable ritual items and possible shrines are considered in the context of sacred geography, revealing aspects of how the Chumash may have interacted with the supernatural landscape of Santa Cruz Island.

History and Behavioral Ecology during the Middle-Late Transition on the Central California Coast: Findings from the Coon Creek Site (CA-SLO-9), San Luis Obispo County

As the focus of intense debate concerning the possible effects of environmental variability on Native populations, the Middle-Late Transition (MLT) is an exceptionally important period in California prehistory. Recent salvage excavations at the Coon Creek Site (CA-SLO-9) on the San Luis Obispo County coast revealed a single, highly discrete component dating cal A.D. 900-1300 which is largely synchronous with most definitions of the MLT. With a recovery volume of 23.2 cubic meters, this is the first component to yield artifact and faunal assemblages substantive enough to establish the culture historical markers for this period in this region, and to define corresponding subsistence and technological patterns. Artifacts from a proposed Coon Creek Phase show a blend of Middle and Late Period cultural traits (with a heavier contribution from the former) as well as some unique MLT diagnostics Faunal remains suggest a landscape in which foragers exploited robust invertebrate populations, cormorants, sea otters, and rabbits, and "de-intensified" their fishing practices, all of which imply an organization of labor different from that of previous periods.


Geographic and Temporal Variability of Middle Holocene Red Abalone Middens on San Miguel Island, California

For at least the last half-century, Middle Holocene "red abalone middens" have been of interest to a variety of scientists working on the Channel Islands of California. Paleoclimatologists, oceanographers, ecologists, and archaeologists have all offered hypotheses to explain their widespread occurrence; however, quantification of their midden constituents has generally been insufficient to explain both their temporal and spatial variability. Detailed zooarchaeological analysis is a key component in understanding why these middens appeared at about 7,500 cal B.P. and disappeared at about 3,300 cal B.P. Faunal data from three radiocarbon (carbon 14) dated red abalone middens on San Miguel Island are presented. The analysis demonstrates both the geographic and temporal variability inherent within these sites, and suggests that our models for explaining their presence must account for this complexity.

The Illusive Kostromitinov Ranch: A Russian-American Company Ranch in Sonoma County, California

Surface pedestrian survey and geophysical survey conducted in the summer of 2004 and spring of 2005 attempted to identify the location of the Kostromitinov Ranch, an outlying farming operation intended to supply Russian-American Company outposts. Established in 1833 between Spanish and Russian colonial footholds in northern California, the ranch is noted on historic maps and in historic documents. While the archaeological surveys produced negative results, the establishment of Kostromitinov Ranch at the intersection of colonial and Native worlds offers historians and anthropologists a fresh perspective on aspects of Russian America and colonial encounters.

Middle Holocene Subsistence and Land Use at Southeast Anchorage, Santa Rosa Island, California

California's Channel Islands have a lengthy archaeological record, spanning roughly 13,000 calendar years. However, relatively little is known about cultural developments during the Middle Holocene, resulting in a substantial gap in our understanding of the prehistory of California. Our research at CA-SRI-667, a large dune site with three components dated between about 6,200 and 4,300 cal B. P., demonstrates significant environmental changes occurred through time. Faunal remains and artifacts from the site document the decline of a local estuary, intensive dune building episodes, and the presence of relatively mobile human settlement systems. These data illustrate the dynamic nature of Middle Holocene human settlement and subsistence strategies, and associated environmental changes on California's Channel Islands.

Lost and Found

Official Relation to Recent Indian Difficulities in the Northern Part of the State

This installment of Lost and Found features a telling and evocative exchange of correspondence concerning the so called "Indian problem " that was increasingly engaging the attention of a wide range of Californians as the Gold Rush was drawing to a close. It was originally printed in 1852 as a short report to the State Senate under the title "Official correspondence between the Governor of California, the U.S. Indian agents for California, and the Commander of the U. States troops now in California, in relation to recent Indian difficulties in the northern part of the state" (Sacramento City: E. Casserly), and was then reprinted in I860 as a portion of a rare, larger volume entitled Majority and Minority Reports of the Special Joint Committee on the Mendocuio War (Sacramento: Charles T. Botts). It was finally micropublished in 1975 in the series "Western Americana: Frontier History of the Trans-Mississippi West, 1550-1900" (New Haven: Research Publications). Bigler's April 8 letter to Hitchcock was reprinted in both Heizer and Almquist's The Other Californians and in Heizer's The Destruction of the California Indians (which also included the initiating April 6 missive from the state legislators). Reading the entire exchange of letters between some of the main protagonists of the day inevitably reminds one that "plus ca change, plus c'est la mime chose." Glenn Farris kindly arranged for us to obtain a copy of the 1852 publication for presentation here.


Timbrook: Chumash Ethnobotany: Plant Knowledge Among the Chumash People of Southern California

Chumash Ethnobotany: Plant Knowledge Among the Chumash People of Southern California Jan Tunbrook Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Monographs No. 5/ Publications in Anthropology No. 1. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2007,272 pp., 27 watercolors by Chris Chapman, 9 drawings by Jan Timbrook, 9 b/w photographs, 1 map, 3 tables, bibliography, index, $27.95 (paperback).

Gallegos and Kyle: Five Thousand Years of Maritime Subsistence at CA-SDI-48, on Ballast Point, San Diego County, California

Five Thousand Years of Maritime Subsistence at CA-SDI-48, on Ballast Point, San Diego County, California. Dennis Gallegos and Carolyn Kyle. Salinas: Coyote Press, 1998. [Archives of California Prehistory No. 40.] Xiv + 224 pp., 32 figs., 86 tables, 1 appendix. $23.00, (paper).