Territoriality among Coastal Villages on California’s Northern Channel Islands


The location of archaeological settlement sites is influenced not only by the distribution of ecological resources, but also cultural factors including conflict between neighboring populations. The ideal free distribution is a human behavioral ecology model that has been used to understand the establishment and persistence of settlement sites in the archaeological record. On California’s northern Channel Islands, the number and location of settlement sites expands over time until the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (1150–600 cal BP), consistent with the predictions of the ideal free distribution. Afterward, total population on the islands continued to increase, but the number of major settlement sites decreased. We argue that this pattern, which is consistent with the ideal despotic distribution model variant, is related in part to territoriality and conflict. Rather than focusing settlement on all the best ecological locations, there are buffer zones between villages that were unoccupied. This includes the depopulation of sites that were occupied early and persistently throughout the Holocene. Many of the occupied sites are in defensible locations with large viewsheds. This study provides a useful case study for understanding the relationship between ecological and social factors in settlement distributions, illustrating the explanatory value of balancing general models and specific cases.

Cite this Record

Territoriality among Coastal Villages on California’s Northern Channel Islands. Christopher Jazwa, Douglas Kennett, Bruce Winterhalder. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430889)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14750