Ancient California: Reconstructing Lifeways with Behavioral Ecology Models

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Research in California has long been at the forefront in the adaptation of economic and behavioral ecology models for application to the archaeological record. This symposium presents a collection of new investigations of prehistoric foraging populations in California focused on reconstructing patterns of reproduction and population growth, subsistence and intensification, settlement patterns, and the emergence of a monetized economy. Contributors employ a range of models to demonstrate the adaptive flexibility that resulted in unparalleled hunter-gatherer population density and diversity of socio-political complexity in California.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-9 of 9)

  • Documents (9)

  • Adaptive Dietary Response to Long-Term Drought: Diachronic Stable Isotope Evidence from the Central Sierra Nevada, California (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Bryna Hull. Jemer Eerkens. Reba Fuller.

    This study examines human dietary responses to the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA), an extended period of warmer and drier environmental conditions from AD 900-1300, in the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Stable isotope and radiocarbon analyses of human remains attributable to the Tuolumne Me-Wuk reveal individual-level dietary behaviors. Results show a region-specific "Central Sierran" pattern of resource use in the form of a distinctive isotopic signature relative to other areas...

  • Ancient Origins of Ethnographic Shell Bead Money in Central California (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gregory Burns. Jelmer Eerkens.

    Far from providing a bounty that obviated agriculture, the California acorn economy presented risks of secular variation more extreme than experienced by other densely populated hunter gatherers. Decentralized political organization and high ethno-linguistic diversity further complicated redistribution of spatio-temporally variant resources. In the ethnographic period, shell bead money played a key role in enabling exchange. We examine changing patterns in bead manufacture and distribution...

  • Beads all the way down: reassessing the economics of Shell Bead Production on Santa Cruz Island (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brian Barbier.

    Marine shell beads played an important role within broad interregional exchange networks in California for several millenia. Previous scholarship has demonstrated the relationship of shell bead production and exchange to increasing socio-political complexity in the Santa Barbara Channel region during the Late Period, ca. 900 B.P. However, this relationship is less understood for earlier periods. Additionally, the morphologically-distinct bead types produced during the Late and preceding Middle...

  • Did Increased Landscape Management through Pyrodiversity Lead to a Rise in Deer Procurement in the San Francisco Bay Area? (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brian Byrd. Adrian Whitaker.

    Some of the earliest archaeological applications of human behavioral ecology were Central California studies of faunal resource depression by Jack Broughton including a detailed study of the massive Emeryville Shellmound, located on the east shore of San Francisco Bay. An intriguing pattern identified by Broughton was a significant increase in the relative abundance of deer in the later occupational strata at Emeryville. Broughton attributed this shift to the initiation of distant-patch hunting...

  • Fertility in Ancient California: Life History Strategies and Implications for Demographics, Resource Intensification, and Social Organization (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexandra Greenwald.

    Human behavioral ecology predicts that individuals alter reproductive strategies in response to environmental and social conditions. I consider stable isotope measures (δ15N and δ13C) of weaning age, parental provisioning, and child foraging derived from human tissues as proxies for the reproductive strategies employed by prehistoric hunter-gatherer populations from Central California over a 6,000-year period. Shifts in weaning age and childhood diet over time suggest reduced parental investment...

  • Modeling the Relationship between Riverine Resource Exploitation, Technology, and Social Organization in the Sacramento River Basin (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Susan Talcott. Jelmer Eerkens. Eric Bartelink.

    Isotopic studies allow for a more refined look at variation in diet and mobility among individuals. These studies have been used in California as a proxy for analyzing human behavioral adaptations. In this study we use stable isotope analyses of human bone collagen and apatite to evaluate diet of individuals from sites within the Sacramento River basin over time. Ethnographic accounts from this area emphasize the importance of mass salmon procurement and describe high levels of social...

  • Settlement Patterning and the Ideal Free Distribution in the Ethnographic and Prehistoric Sierra Nevada of California (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nicholas Hanten.

    The ideal free distribution, which predicts that individuals will assort themselves across habitats of varying quality such that all individuals receive equal fitness benefits, can be an important model in the analysis of human settlement patterning. Despite its simplicity, the ideal free distribution can be difficult to apply to archaeological problems because, in addition to often requiring estimates of population size, the model necessitates a definition of habitat "suitability" in the...

  • Stable Isotope Evidence of Seasonal Shellfish Harvesting and Consumption in Prehistoric Central California (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Roshanne Bakhtiary. Rosemary Cambra. Alan Leventhal.

    Shellfish played an important role in the diet of prehistoric hunter-gatherers of Central California. They were the dominant visible component in the large shellmounds that once lined the San Francisco Bay shoreline. Although Bay shellfish are present at inland sites as well, little is known about the role of shellfish in the diet and lifeways of interior populations that hauled the resource in from the Bay. This study focuses on findings from CA-SCL-330, an inland Late Period site in the Diablo...

  • The Viability of Long-Distance Acorn Transport in Eastern California (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carly Whelan.

    The ethnographically documented Mono Lake Paiute of Eastern California regularly crossed the Sierra Nevada to procure acorns from Yosemite Valley; a total journey of fourteen days. It is not clear whether such trips are economically efficient in their own right, or were undertaken as components of social excursions to visit and trade with the Yosemite Me-Wuk, or as journeys of necessity in years with poor piñon pine nut harvests. To evaluate the economic productivity of procuring acorns from...