The Viability of Long-Distance Acorn Transport in Eastern California

Author(s): Carly Whelan

Year: 2017


The ethnographically documented Mono Lake Paiute of Eastern California regularly crossed the Sierra Nevada to procure acorns from Yosemite Valley; a total journey of fourteen days. It is not clear whether such trips are economically efficient in their own right, or were undertaken as components of social excursions to visit and trade with the Yosemite Me-Wuk, or as journeys of necessity in years with poor piñon pine nut harvests. To evaluate the economic productivity of procuring acorns from Yosemite, relative to collecting resources in the Mono Basin, we use previously published data to calculate the mean return rates for collecting and transporting basket loads of various staple foods to a winter camp location. We also calculate the standard deviation of each return rate, taking into account the variance present in published estimates of the caloric content of resources, collection and processing times, packing density, and basket volume. The results indicate that while acorn procurement trips to Yosemite are less productive than collecting piñon pine nuts and Pandora moth caterpillars in the vicinity of Mono Lake, they compare favorably to collecting small seeds. This suggests that long-distance acorn transport was a viable subsistence strategy for the hunter-gatherers of Mono Lake.

Cite this Record

The Viability of Long-Distance Acorn Transport in Eastern California. Carly Whelan. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431702)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17117