Why Did Paleocoastal People Settle California’s Islands?

Author(s): Amy Gusick; Jon Erlandson

Year: 2015


Islands have long been viewed as marginal habitats compared to mainland regions where terrestrial resources are generally more abundant and diverse. We examine this concept of island marginality by reviewing evidence for Paleocoastal settlement of islands off the Pacific Coast of Alta and Baja California. If the islands were marginal, we should expect human settlement to occur relatively late in time and early use of the islands to be sporadic and specialized. For the Northern Channel Islands this is clearly not the case, with human settlement occurring by 13,000 years ago and extensive evidence for Paleocoastal occupations between ~12,200 and 8400 years ago. There is less evidence for Paleocoastal occupation of the Southern Channel Islands, but crescents found on San Nicolas suggest that Paleocoastal people visited this island. Off Baja California, there is evidence for sustained maritime occupation of Cedros Island by 12,000 years ago, although the island was connected to the mainland at the time. Although the earliest human history of California’s islands is clouded by sea level rise, coastal erosion, dune building, and differential research, the evidence suggest that the Northern Channel Islands, at least, were optimal habitat for Paleocoastal people, with ample food, freshwater, and other resources.

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Cite this Record

Why Did Paleocoastal People Settle California’s Islands?. Amy Gusick, Jon Erlandson. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395120)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -125.464; min lat: 32.101 ; max long: -114.214; max lat: 42.033 ;