Shellfish and ancient human ecology: an archaeological study from San Miguel Island, California
Archaeologist and ecologists are increasingly recognizing historical data as an important source in analyzing human ecological relationships. Archaeology provides a means for investigating such relationships and islands provide ideal landscapes for researching human impacts on marine ecosystems. My thesis is based on a 10,000 yearold record of shellfish harvesting from San Miguel Island, California and analyzes possible human impacts on California mussel (Mytilus californianus), black abalone (Haliotis cracherodii), and red abalone (H rufescens) populations. I discuss the environmental setting, archaeological background, and pertinent ecology of San Miguel Island, California as it pertains to shellfish and humans. Utilizing shell length measurements, I examine the human-environment relationship that existed between island peoples and shellfish communities. I suggest that shellfish harvesting pressures by the Chumash Indians and their antecedents over the past 10,000 years impacted shellfish communities by reducing the overall size of shells through time on San Miguel Island, California.