Demographic Collapse and Deintensification in Protohistoric Alta California

Author(s): Jacob Fisher

Year: 2017


Decreased human population densities associated with European exploration and colonialism in western North America may explain the historic observations of bountiful game that contrasts so drastically with the archaeological record on resource intensification. At Kathy’s Rockshelter in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills, California, there is a clear prehistoric trend towards resource depression of artiodactyls and increased dependence on small mammals, freshwater mussels, geophytes, and other higher cost resources. A reversal of this trend corresponds with the initial European exploration of the California coast in the 16th century. This suggests that interior Native Californian populations were impacted by epidemics spreading in advance of direct contact in the 19th century. When human population densities declined significantly, the relaxation of hunting pressures allowed for an increase in large game populations to historic baseline levels.

Cite this Record

Demographic Collapse and Deintensification in Protohistoric Alta California. Jacob Fisher. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430898)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15484