Paleocoastal Resource Use and Human Sedentism in Island Environments: A Case Study from California's Northern Channel Islands
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The peopling of the Americas, including the possibility that maritime peoples followed a coastal route from Northeast Asia into the New World, is a topic of major interest in archaeology. Paleocoastal sites on California`s Northern Channel Islands (NCI), dating between ~13,000 and 8000 years ago, may support this coastal migration theory. Until recently, however, we knew little about Paleocoastal technologies, settlement, and lifeways on the islands. Combining traditional archaeological approaches with experimental and archaeometric techniques, I examine Paleocoastal settlement and resource use on San Miguel and Santa Rosa islands. Recently discovered Paleocoastal sites have produced sophisticated chipped stone technologies, with bifacially-flaked points and crescents of extraordinary craftsmanship. Exploring lithic raw material procurement strategies, I demonstrate a Paleocoastal preference for island cherts from sources centered on western Santarosae. Using experimental and archaeometric techniques, I show that Paleocoastal peoples systematically employed heat-treatment to manufacture finely crafted bifaces from island cherts. Using stable oxygen isotope (δ18O) analyses of marine shells from Paleocoastal sites, I examine paleo-sea surface temperatures, seasonality of shellfish collecting, and human sedentism. Evaluating whether such occupations were seasonal or year-round, I tested different sampling strategies for California mussel shells, showing that a method used by many California archaeologists provides erroneous seasonality interpretations for ~35 percent of sampled shells. Using a more intensive sampling strategy, I demonstrate that some Paleocoastal sites were used seasonally, but three substantial middens dating to 8200, 9000, and 10,000 cal BP produced evidence for shell harvesting during all four seasons. This suggests that the NCI were occupied more or less permanently and year-round by at least 10,000 years ago. My research suggests that Paleocoastal peoples had a strong commitment to maritime and island lifeways starting at least 12,000 years ago. From that time until ~8000 years ago, Paleocoastal peoples relied primarily on island resources despite their close proximity to the mainland. The presence of a relatively large, permanent, and distinctive Paleocoastal population on the NCI may also support the coastal migration theory and an even deeper antiquity of human settlement and sedentism on the NCI. This dissertation includes previously published and unpublished co-authored material.