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Prehistoric California

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Copyright: 2004
Trim: 8½ x 11
Pages: 372 pp.
Illustrations: 70 figures, 38 tables


Prehistoric California

Archaeology and the Myth of Paradise

Edited by L. Mark Raab and Terry L. Jones

Anthropology of Pacific North America Series

Anthropology / Archaeology

In this anthology, Mark Raab and Terry Jones present a series of research articles that dispel lingering mythologies about California’s prehistory. They begin with the most enduring notion—that of an essentially stable, benign climate—presenting evidence that prehistoric climate flux played a significant role in culture change. From there, Raab and Jones seek to dispel the myth of California as a natural cornucopia. They show that prehistoric foragers themselves had the capacity to negatively affect their animal food supplies, and that what is often considered the premier vegetal food, the acorn, appeared much later than many suppose in the diets of native peoples.

This collection effectively summarizes the major debates surrounding California archaeology and provides a solid basis for a new, more nuanced view of the state’s prehistory.

L. Mark Raab is professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Public Archaeology at California State University, Northridge.

Terry L. Jones is associate professor of anthropology at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.


Mark E. Basgall, California State University, Sacramento
Jack M. Broughton, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
Gary M. Brown, Aztec National Monument, Aztec, New Mexico
Jon M. Erlandson, University of Oregon, Eugene
John Fagan, Archaeological Investigations Northwest, Portland, Oregon
Richard T. Fitzgerald, Environmental Planning South, California Department of Transportation, Oakland
William R. Hildebrandt, Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Davis, California
Thomas L. Jackson, Pacific Legacy, Santa Cruz, California
John L. Johnson, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, California
Terry L. Jones, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Douglas J. Kennett, University of Oregon, Eugene
James P. Kennett, University of California, Santa Barbara
Patricia M. Lambert, Utah State University, Logan
Kelly R. McGuire, Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Davis, California
Janet L. McVickar, Western Cultural Resource Management, Farmington, New Mexico
Charles Miksicek, Santa Cruz City Museum of Natural History, Santa Cruz, California
Judith F. Porcasi, University of California, Los Angeles
William Preston, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
L. Mark Raab, California State University, Northridge
John Sharp, Environmental Division, California Department of Transportation, Sacramento
W. Geoffrey Spaulding, CH2M, Las Vegas, Nevada
Phillip L. Walker, University of California, Santa Barbara
Andrew York, EDAW, San Diego, California

Table of Contents:

1. The Rediscovery of California Prehistory ~ Terry L. Jones and L. Mark Raab

I. Environmental Crises and Culture Change
2. Environmental Imperatives Reconsidered, Demographic Crises in Western North America During the Medieval Climatic Anomaly ~ Terry L. Jones, et al.

II. Hunter-Gatherers in a Land of Plenty?
3. Declines in Mammalian Forging Efficiency during the Late Holocene, San Francisco Bay ~ Jack M. Broughton
4. Evolution of Marine Mammal Hunting: A View from the California and Oregon Coasts ~ William R. Hildebrandt and Terry L. Jones
5. Trans-Holocene Marine Mammal Exploitation on San Clemente Island: A Tragedy of the Commons Revisited ~ Judith F. Porcasi, Terry L. Jones and L. Mark Raab
6. Resource Intensification among Hunter-Gatherers: Acorn Economies in Prehistoric California ~ Mark E. Basgall
7. Health in Prehistoric Populations of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands ~ Patricia M. Lambert

III. One If By Land, Two If By Sea
8. Anatomically Modern Humans, Maritime Voyaging, and the Pleistocene Colonization of the Americas ~ Jon M. Erlandson
9. The Cross Creek Site and its Implications for New World Colonization ~ Terry L. Jones, et al.

IV. The Origins of Social Complexity
10. Competitive and Cooperative Responses to Climatic Instability in Coastal Southern California ~ D. J. Kennett and J. P. Kennett
11. Social Responses to Climate Change Among the Chumash Indians of South-Central California ~ John R. Johnson

V. Men, Women, and Work
12. The Possibilities of Men and Women: Gender and the California Milling Stone Horizon ~ Kelly R. McGuire and William R. Hildebrandt
13. Pounding Acorns: Women’s Production as Social and Economic Focus ~ Thomas L. Jackson

VI. Vectors of Death: Tragedy Before European Settlement
14. Serpent in Eden: Dispersal of Foreign Diseases into Pre-Mission California ~ William Preston

VII. The Fall of the Acorn Curtain
15. The Future of California Prehistory ~ Terry L. Jones and L. Mark Raab

List of Contributors

Praise and Reviews:

"Long excellent overview of the technical literature since the late 1980s, placing major papers read by every student within the covers of a single volume."
—Brian Fagan, UC, Santa Barbara

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