Gathering Evidence: Terrestrial Plant Resources of California’s Islands

Author(s): Kristina Gill; Kristin Hoppa

Year: 2015


The abundance and diversity of terrestrial plant resources on the islands off the Pacific coast of southern Alta and Baja California vary in terms of island biogeographic distribution, ranging from pine forests and oak/juniper woodlands, to chaparral, cactus scrub and grassland habitats, among others. These plant resources provided food, medicine, and raw materials for island populations. However, island plant resources have long been described in the literature as "depauperate," an idea based largely on direct field observations of a flora decimated by historical overgrazing practices, yet one that has greatly influenced our interpretations of archaeological data. A growing body of paleoethnobotanical research demonstrates that macro- and microbotanical remains recovered from island contexts provide valuable data; however, interpretations vary on the extent to which recovered plants represent island resources versus mainland trade goods. We engage this discussion with a survey of the recovering modern island flora, combined with recent paleobotanical data including macrobotanical and starch grain analyses, indicating that island plant resources were significantly less marginal than previously thought.

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Cite this Record

Gathering Evidence: Terrestrial Plant Resources of California’s Islands. Kristina Gill, Kristin Hoppa. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395127)


Spatial Coverage

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