The Evolution of Intensive Plant Use by Complex Hunter-Gatherers: Archaeobotanical Records from California

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Subsistence systems in California have been greatly elucidated in the past two decades through study of the continually expanding archaeobotanical record. This symposium presents recent research by scholars working in coastal, island and inland settings of California. The California archaeobotanical record offers insights into the evolution of intensive and sedentary hunter-gatherers who maximized their use of a well-endowed but highly varied environment. The breadth of papers will demonstrate the range of research issues that have been addressed using California archaeobotanical data, and what this record can offer to archaeological problems elsewhere in similar contexts.

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  • Documents (8)

  • Ancient Starch Research In California: Results from CA-SBA-53 (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jenna Santy.

    Acorns were an essential foodstuff across prehistoric California; the transition to acorn use is currently being investigated. CA-SBA-53, a single-component Middle Holocene site on the mainland coast near Santa Barbara, contains an assemblage fairly evenly split between mortars and pestles, traditionally associated with acorn processing, and manos and metates, generally associated with seeds.; furthermore, these mortars and pestles are some of the oldest known in California. By extracting and...

  • Archaeobotanical Evidence and Diachronic Changes in Foodways of Indigenous Groups in the Central Coast and San Francisco Bay Regions, California (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Rob Cuthrell.

    The Central Coast and San Francisco Bay regions of California are areas of high climatic, ecological, and indigenous cultural heterogeneity. During the last two decades, archaeobotanical research in these regions has begun to document the contributions of botanical resources in indigenous foodways systems through time. In the San Francisco Bay Area, a large number of anthropogenic shell mounds were population aggregation sites used for thousands of years, and, for the period after ca. 1050 CE,...

  • Changes Palates and Resources: Modeling Diachronic Plant Use in Prehistoric California (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Seetha Reddy.

    Despite considerable diversity in plant communities across coastal and inland California, the region’s hunter-gatherers often have been viewed as having broadly similar plant resource orientation. This paper reassess this perspective by explicitly examining spatial and temporal variation in plant use west of the Sierra Nevada. In doing so, the study capitalized on a growing body of paleoethnobotanical data to explore similarities and differences in plant food resource emphasis across six main...

  • Environmental Constraints and Plant Food Intensification in the Sacramento Valley (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Eric Wohlgemuth.

    The Sacramento Valley bottom is a rich environment for faunal resources, notably fish, but lacks staple nut crops found elsewhere in interior central California. The absence of key nut resources appears to be the key factor in intensified production of geophytes and the early intensification of small seeds, especially Chenopodium spp. These features are absent in other regions in the rich archaeobotanical record of central California. SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the...

  • Evidence of Specialization and Intensification of Small Seed Exploitation on Santa Cruz Island, California (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Heather Thakar.

    This paper reconstructs shifts in botanical foraging behavior on Santa Cruz Island, California and quantitatively demonstrates specialization and intensification in the exploitation of small oily and starchy seeds from the terminal Early Period (ca. 3000 cal. BP) through the late Middle Period (ca. 1000 cal. BP). This shift accompanied an increased reliance on terrestrial food resources overall. A recently recognized climatic transition (2800 cal. BP-1800 cal. BP) likely altered the geographic...

  • Native Irrigation in Owens Valley: The 2000 Year Back-story (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Wendy Pierce. Gary Scholze.

    Owens Valley is unique in that the Native Paiute were recorded as using irrigation to promote growth of certain crops such as taboose, Cyperus esculentus. This paper looks at the archaeological occurrence of the taboose tuber and other archaeobotanical remains in Owens Valley to explore the issue of whether Native irrigation would have made sense for this hunter-gatherer group. For roughly the last 2000 years of prehistory the Owens Valley archaeological record shows a cycle of alternating...

  • Plant Remains Assemblage in Santa Clara Valley (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Angela Arpaia.

    The Santa Clara Valley has an archaeobotanical record that spans from the central California Early, Middle, and Late periods. Sites CA-SCL-12, -478, -674, and -919 have robust plant remains assemblages from distinct periods that can be used to evaluate change in plant use and land-management practices. Temporal context and habitat will be compared for each site to understand variation in plant diversity and intensification. SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for...

  • Plant use at Diablo Valdez, Santa Cruz Island: Evidence from macrobotanical and starch grain remains (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kristin Hoppa. Kristina Gill.

    This paper considers both macrobotanical and starch grain evidence for terrestrial plant use at Diablo Valdez (SCRI-619/620) on Santa Cruz Island, California. This inland site consists of a rock shelter as well as an open-air living space, and was occupied from ca. 5900 years ago and into the Historic period. Macrobotanical remains were recovered from 140 liters of soil, while starch grain analysis was conducted on six bowl fragments. This paper contextualizes these results within a broader...