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Ceremonial Practices, Feasts, and Persistent Places: A Ritually Mounded Landscape Constructed by Hunter-gatherers in Southern California

Author(s): Lynn Gamble

Year: 2017

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Summary

Shellmounds have not been recognized as prominent ritual features in southern California, despite evidence to the contrary. The largest extant shellmound in the region is on Santa Cruz Island, measures 270 by 210 meters (roughly 45,000 m² in area), is 8 m higher than the terrace it rests on, is covered with 50 house depressions, and dates to 6000-2500 BP. In the 1920s, three cemeteries were excavated at the top of El Montón; one young woman stood out among the over 200 individuals in that she was buried with 157 stone effigies. Analysis of multiple lines of evidence, including stratigraphic profiles of features, 85 radiocarbon dates, ground penetrating radar, and mortuary data, support my claim that the mound was a persistent place where early visitors had significant feasts, constructed dwellings, buried their dead, and performed ceremonies where select groups of infants, children, and adults were revered. These mortuary rites conveyed the symbolic power of the place and created a history of events that became part of a mythical and real past that was repeatedly visited, modified, and interpreted as social relationships were reinforced. This study supports the idea that shellmounds are socially constructed landscapes, not just accumulations of refuse.


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Ceremonial Practices, Feasts, and Persistent Places: A Ritually Mounded Landscape Constructed by Hunter-gatherers in Southern California. Lynn Gamble. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429657)


Keywords


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 13205

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