Beads all the way down: reassessing the economics of Shell Bead Production on Santa Cruz Island

Author(s): Brian Barbier

Year: 2017


Marine shell beads played an important role within broad interregional exchange networks in California for several millenia. Previous scholarship has demonstrated the relationship of shell bead production and exchange to increasing socio-political complexity in the Santa Barbara Channel region during the Late Period, ca. 900 B.P. However, this relationship is less understood for earlier periods. Additionally, the morphologically-distinct bead types produced during the Late and preceding Middle and Early periods leave different signatures in the archaeological record. Through experimental replication of Olivella shell beads, I assess differences in bead production labor rates and debitage signatures for the predominant bead types produced during the Early, Middle, and Late periods. I compare these findings to the bead production patterns at CA-SCRI-236, a site on Santa Cruz Island that was occupied during all three time periods. Results suggest that previous interpretations are inconclusive: socioeconomic complexity as underwritten by bead production may have developed much earlier and may have experienced brief lulls during times of social or environmental stress. Analysis of the long durée at one location provides greater insight into the evolution of sociopolitical complexity in the region.

Cite this Record

Beads all the way down: reassessing the economics of Shell Bead Production on Santa Cruz Island. Brian Barbier. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431698)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16185