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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 36, Issue 1, 2016

This issue will be available 1/1/2018.


The Berkeley Geographers and Baja California’s Prehistory

Members of what has been termed the Berkeley School of Geographers made important contributions to our understanding of Baja California’s prehistoric past through investigations that began in the 1920s and continued through the middle of twentieth century. Under the direction and stimulus of Carl O. Sauer, one of the twentieth century’s leading U.S. academic geographers, four University of California graduate students, Fred Kniffen, Peveril Meigs, Brigham Arnold, and Homer Aschmann, carried out eld studies and research on the peninsula that addressed ethnographic and archaeological themes from a geographical perspective.

A Collection of Fiber Artifacts from Southcentral Oregon

The Great Basin is well known for its rich record of prehistoric basketry. Although uncommon, sandals, like other types of basketry, can be directly dated and offer data regarding technology and, potentially, ethnicity. Here we report on the contents of a storage pit from a rockshelter in Warner Valley, southcentral Oregon. Its contents, which included ber sandals, a piece of a basket or bowl, and a bundle of shredded sagebrush bark, were directly dated. These dates and the techniques used to manufacture the artifacts provide information about the spatial and temporal distribution of sandals and other basketry types in the northern Great Basin. Furthermore, they suggest that the Klamath, whose ethnographic territory did not include Warner Valley, occupied that area until relatively recently.


Isabel T. Kelly: Pioneer Great Basin Ethnographer

Isabel Truesdell Kelly (1906–1982) was an indefatigable field worker, often in rigorous situations that would challenge even the most seasoned outdoors person with all of the modern gear of today. She worked in the western United States, many rugged areas of Mexico, and also in Central and South America, as well as Pakistan. Archaeology was her “ rst love,” although she did major ethnographic studies and made many contributions to applied anthropology. Theory was not her strong interest, but deep description was, in whatever she was pursuing. Her employment career was outside of academe, owing in part to the period in which she took her graduate training (late 1920s-early 1930s), as well as to circumstances that led her in her early years to spend most of her life in Mexico. But she remains a seminal gure in anthropology, as a pioneer in several geographic areas (including the Great Basin), and—in spite of what was then a non-traditional career path—as a role model for women.

Julian Steward in the Field: On the Road to Cultural Ecology

I never met Julian Steward, but over a span of many years I did come to know him through his own words and through the personal memories of other people. He died in Urbana, Illinois, in 1972, at the age of seventy, just months before I entered the doctoral program in anthropology at the University of Illinois. During the next few years I encountered faculty members and a student or two who had met him—but very few who had known him. He had spent his last ten years living a reclusive life, avoiding the university and only rarely meeting with students at his house. His position as a research professor, without routine teaching duties, allowed that self-chosen isolation even before he retired. So did the help of his wife—but more on that below.

Memories of Isabel T. Kelly (1906 –1982) and Julian H. Steward (1902 –1972)

In this issue, we step back far enough in time to outstrip living memory, but do so to symbolize a period when Great Basin anthropology took the form that would make the region internationally known for both ethnographic richness and for theoretical contributions to ethnology. The works of Isabel T. Kelly and Julian H. Steward are known to all who work in the region, and here we remember them as examples of an earlier time in Great Basin anthropology. We have the good fortune to have contributions by two scholars with deep insights into Kelly and Steward gained from personal connections, from reading their correspondence, from interviews, and from intimacy with their scholarly works. Catherine S. Fowler has explored elements of Kelly’s biography before (Fowler 2012; Fowler and Van Kemper 2008), and is perhaps the scholar most familiar with Kelly’s original works, since she is in the nal stages of publishing Kelly’s Southern Paiute ethnographic notes for the Las Vegas area (Fowler and Garey-Sage 2016). Virginia Kerns has written two outstanding books that show different views of Steward, based on his notes, interviews with those who knew him, and the perspectives of the indigenous people he interviewed (Kerns 2003, 2010).


Brodiaea Return Rates and Their Ethnographic and Archaeological Implications for Occupation of the Northwestern Mojave Desert of North America

Brodiaeas—with the inclusion of blue dicks (Dichelostemma captitatum)—are among the most widespread geophytes found in the state of California. They are also among the geophytes most widely consumed ethnographically, with reports of their use by the majority of native groups within the state. A notable exception involves the desert region of southeastern California, particularly the northwestern Mojave Desert. Although their use and nutritional value are widely documented, little is known about the costs associated with Brodiaea procurement. Here we present data on Brodiaea energetic return rates by combining published nutritional information with timed collection experiments from Pilot Knob Valley, California. We show that the plants produce very low energetic returns (50–239 Kcal/hr.) owing to their small corm size, low caloric content, and the substantial time required to extract them. These low returns mirror data from a small number of previously unpublished experiments and fall at or below rates typically reported for small seeds. Such low values indicate that the plants may have been a marginal resource under many circumstances. We suggest that the absence of these plants in ethnographic accounts may stem from their low returns, as well as their intermittent availability tied to variations in local rainfall. To the extent that these estimates characterize potential returns elsewhere, they have implications for Brodiaea consumption in other contexts as well.

Foraging Ancient Landscapes: Seasonal and Spatial Variation in Prehistoric Exploitation of Plant and Animal Food Resources on Santa Cruz Island, California

In recent years, paleoethnobotanical research on the Northern Channel Islands of California has challenged long-held assumptions regarding the nature of aboriginal patterns of plant exploitation and helped re ne our understanding of prehistoric Chumash subsistence economies. Yet little effort has been made to systematically integrate paleoethnobotanical analyses and datasets with normative subsistence studies, which tend to focus on the abundant (and highly visible) shell sh remains that dominate archaeological assemblages on the Northern Channel Islands. I contend that understanding how the Island Chumash moved about and exploited prehistoric landscapes requires analysis of all subsistence remains—marine and terrestrial, faunal and oral—from multiple sites, site types, and stratigraphic contexts. In this article, I integrate chronological control on century and seasonal timescales with the analysis of well- preserved macrobotanical and faunal assemblages from multiple locations on Santa Cruz Island. These data reveal that variation over relatively short temporal and spatial scales structured foraging decisions and produced persistent and identi able patterns in the archaeological record. In this analysis, reconstruction of seasonal and spatial variation in quantity and array of primary plant and animal food resources exploited contributes to effective assessment of land use and mobility.

Evidence for an Island Chumash Geophyte-Based Subsistence Economy on the Northern Channel Islands

We synthesize northern Channel Islands archaeobotanical data to discuss broad, diachronic patterns in ancient plant use. Using quantitative and qualitative comparisons, we explore the relative importance of plant foods through time and consider how plant food rankings on the islands may have differed from those on the mainland.We argue that geophytes were the highest ranked plant food resource, valued for their contribution of easily procured carbohydrates in an island environment rich in marine protein and fat resources. Geophytes are phenomenally abundant on the islands, and were used consistently by the Island Chumash and their ancestors for at least 10,000 years with no signi cant change through time. We also explore the representation of various other plant foods through time and consider what archaeobotanical data indicate about the use of groundstone, division of labor, and island-mainland exchange networks.

Introduction: Plant Use by Complex Hunter-Gatherers: Paleoethnobotanical Studies in California

Food is one of the most tangible, persistent, and engrained elements of cultural behavior in any given society, past or present. Subsistence systems in California have been greatly elucidated in the past two decades through the study of the continually expanding archaeobotanical record. This special section of the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology (Volume 36, Nos. 1 and 2) situates paleoethnobotany in California by highlighting the research currently being conducted by scholars working in various coastal, island, and inland settings in the state. The California archaeobotanical record offers signi cant insights into the evolution of intensive plant exploitation by sedentary hunter-gatherers who maximized their use of a well-endowed but highly diverse environment. The breadth of papers presented here demonstrates the range of research issues that have been addressed using California archaeobotanical data, and suggests what that record might contribute to the resolution of archaeological problems in similar contexts elsewhere.

Change and Persistence: Mission Neophyte Foodways at Selected Colonial Alta California Institutions

Archaeological and historical data on coastal California foodways illustrate the complex interaction between Native Americans and Spanish colonists during the Mission period and re ect adaptations by both groups to new environmental, economic, and social settings. Paleoethnobotanical remains from neophyte (converted Native American) contexts at Mission San Luis Obispo, Mission Vieja de la Purísima, and Mission Santa Cruz and from Spanish contexts at Mission Vieja de la Purísima and the Presidio of San Francisco provide evidence of both continuity and change in aboriginal/ neophyte diets, with little adoption of native foodstuffs by the colonists.


The Nicoleños in Los Angeles: Documenting the Fate of the Lone Woman’s Community

When the last San Nicolas Island resident, known as the ‘Lone Woman,’ was brought to Santa Barbara in 1853 after 18 years of solitude following the 1835 removal of her people to the mainland, efforts were made to locate speakers who could communicate with her. That search was reported to be unsuccessful, and the Lone Woman died seven weeks later, unable to recount her story. After the Lone Woman’s death, many accounts presumed that everyone from San Nicolas Island had died. Recent research in provincial Mexican papers, Los Angeles documents, American records, and church registers has uncovered original primary source information that details the experience of the Lone Woman’s people in Los Angeles. Five men, women, and children are con rmed or are likely to have come to the Los Angeles area from San Nicolas Island in 1835, and the parents of a newborn girl baptized the following year also may have come from that island.

Prehistoric Fisheries of Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo County, California

An 8,000-year sequence of sh remains from Morro Bay, a shallow, 8.1km.2 coastal estuary in San Luis Obispo County, has been compiled during recent investigations. The sample, obtained from nine sites and 14 components (total excavation volume=275.86 m.3), includes 19,226 sh elements recovered via 1/8-inch dry-screening and 718 elements from 1/16-inch water-screened columns. The archaeological ndings are generally consistent with species inventories from the 1970s, although northern anchovies are under-represented in the prehistoric record. Remains show a consistent focus on the netting of small schooling shes in the calm backwaters of the bay. A signi cant decrease in bat rays is attributed to a shift in seasonality, although overexploitation cannot be ruled out. Remains show only modest changes between 8,000 and 950 cal B.P., but a dramatic spike in NISP/m.3 and sh/deer+rabbits during the Middle- Late Transition suggests an increased focus on marine prey during droughts of the Medieval Climatic Anomaly, when Morro Bay apparently served as a refugium. Fishing declined relative to terrestrial resources during the Late Period, when acorns and other plant foods increased in importance.