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Archaeological data from Washington State indicate that northern fur seals will likely once again be a dominant predator in the California Current System

Author(s): Andrew Trites ; Frances Robertson

Year: 2017

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Summary

Northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) of all ages (pups, juveniles, bulls and adult females) dominate the mammal assemblage of prehistoric (prior to 1850) coastal middens from California to Alaska. We reviewed archaeological data, historical documents on the early fur trade, as well as more recent data on fur seal genetics and migratory patterns of fur seals―and discovered that most of the fur seal remains in Washington State middens likely originated from a very large colony of northern fur seals that Russian sealers extirpated from the Farallon Islands (California) in 1840. Additional fur seal remains likely originated from the Bering Sea (Alaska). Prehistorically, native hunters regularly traveled 50 km or further offshore in open canoes during the winter and spring migration of northern fur seals along the continental shelf break to obtain fur seals (and other species). We hypothesize that sealing likely led to the development of exceptional seamanship and was the stepping stone to whaling. The data we compiled further indicate that fur seals were once a dominant species in the California Current system, and that they are likely to again dominate this ecosystem now that they have re-established a breeding colony on the Farallon Islands.


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Archaeological data from Washington State indicate that northern fur seals will likely once again be a dominant predator in the California Current System. Andrew Trites, Frances Robertson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428937)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16409

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America