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Punctuated Change in the San Francisco Bay Area

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... In his discussion of shellmounds in the San Francisco Bay area, Gifford (1916) stated "It may be taken as axiomatic that the species in a [shell] mound reflect the molluscan fauna of the vicinity, and hence the environment during the period of growth of the mound." Based on the mollusks present at the Dominican University archaeological site (CA-MRN-254), we find this to be an exaggeration and show that the local Federated Coast Miwok people, a hunter-gatherer population (Milliken et al., 2007) characterized by a semi-sedentary mobility adaptation (Cook, 1976), traveled or traded to get much of their desired food items. ...
... Mytilus trossulus and the Modiolus casts, while common throughout, are most prevalent between the earlier and later periods of occupation. In their summary of cultural change at bay area occupation sites, Milliken et al. (2007) noted the same shift (i.e., chronologically from oyster to mussel to clam) in shellfish harvesting at many sites along the central and northern bay shore as reported by Gifford (1916), Moratto (1984), and others. These foraging shifts were attributed to several factors: sedimentation, overexploitation, and cultural disruption. ...
... Among the 27 archaeological sites attributed to the Coast Miwok people in Marin County (Milliken et al., 2007), a dataset comprising 379 burials showed restricted evidence of violence: trophy taking/dismemberment (2 sites; 0.71%), blunt force craniofacial trauma (4 sites; 6.8%), and sharp force and projectile trauma (3 sites; 6.8%) (Schwitalla et al., 2014). Peaks in trophy taking and sharp force trauma occurred from 500 B.C. to A.D. 420, and blunt force and sharp force from A.D. 1720-1899 (Schwitalla et al., 2014), with a smaller increase in sharp force/projectile trauma from A.D. 1000-1250 as the bow and arrow became the dominant weapon in the San Francisco Bay area (Jones and Schwitalla, 2008). ...
Article
We have identified and provided ecological interpretations of 30 taxa recovered at two shellmounds at the Dominican University of California archaeology site in Marin County, California (CA-MRN-254). A Q-mode cluster analysis was used to group the samples according to their faunal similarity. The clusters ranged from a diverse grouping of 100 samples with 27 taxa (Cluster A) to those with a more restricted assemblage (4–9 taxa in Clusters B to E). The Q-mode clusters were then used to interpret the variability in food resources utilized through the 1800 years of site occupation. During the Intermediate Middle Period (A.D.100-300), the inhabitants appeared to be selective in the marine taxa they used, evident by the presence of Cluster B and E assemblages. A diverse (Cluster A) assemblage was then utilized at the site at one or both of the shellmounds through the remainder of the occupancy period, including the Middle/Late Period Transition (A.D. 700–900) and Late Period Phase 1C (A.D. 900–1300), coincident with the extensive drought conditions of the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA) in the San Francisco Bay area. These findings suggest the marine invertebrate resources utilized by the site occupants were not significantly affected by the persistent aridity associated with the MCA.
... nasuta) although it also produced vertebrate remains, intact features, and a modest assemblage of formal artifacts. A total of 24 radiocarbon dates from marine shells and animal bone collagen shows that the portion of the deposit investigated by Caltrans was occupied between 4000 and 1500 cal BP, marking portions of the Early (5000-2600 cal BP) and Middle (2600-1000 cal BP) periods in the San Francisco Bay cultural sequence (Milliken et al., 2007). Direct dates on 16 M. nasuta shells from the site span this range (Table 1), though the period from~3000 to 2000 cal BP is poorly represented, perhaps suggesting two periods focused on shellfishing. ...
... Since then, the most influential model for local settlement suggests a ''periodically mobile home base'' system, in which local groups had two or three contemporaneous semi-permanent villages together with numerous seasonal special purpose camps and locations (Banks and Orlins, 1981). Developed on the basis of settlement practices observed at the time of European contact, the model supposes that semi-permanent villages could be moved every few years within the community territory because investment in structures was minimal (Milliken et al., 2007). Furthermore, ''the duration of stay at each site may have been influenced by the available supplies of such localized, not easily transported items as firewood, fresh water, and molluscan food resources, as well as hygienic conditions'' (Banks and Orlins, 1981:9). ...
... (oyster) and Mytilus sp. (mussel) dominate (Broughton, 1999;Ingram, 1998;Milliken et al., 2007). Extending seasonality studies to include these species would require a calcite form of the carbonate precipitation equation be used (e.g., Horibe and Oba, 1972) rather than the aragonite equation used here (Grossman and Ku, 1986). ...
Article
Seasonality determination using stable oxygen isotope (δ18O) analyses in archaeological mollusk shell has been largely limited to aquatic settings where one of the two factors that control shell δ18O – water δ18O (or salinity) and temperature – is assumed to be constant. Open coastal marine environments reflect the former situation, and tropical estuaries constitute the latter. In an effort to expand stable isotope seasonality to an ecological setting where neither variable remains constant, we present a model of annual shell δ18O cycle of aragonite deposition derived from instrumental data on salinity and temperature from San Francisco Bay, California. The predicted range of modeled shell δ18O is consistent with observed δ18O values in prehistoric and modern shells when local conditions are considered. Measurements of δ18O taken at 0mm and 2mm from the terminal growth margin were made on 36 archaeological specimens of Macoma nasuta from a late Holocene hunter-gatherer site CA-ALA-17, and season of collection was inferred using the shell δ18O model. We conclude that shellfish exploitation occurred through the year with the exception of fall, which may indicate scheduling conflicts with acorn harvesting or other seasonally abundant resources elsewhere. The model supports the feasibility of stable isotope seasonality studies in temperate estuaries, provided that instrumental records are available to quantify the relevant water conditions at appropriate spatial and temporal scales.
... The faunal and archaeobotanical evidence suggest a strong focus on the exploitation of terrestrial plants at CA-ALA-554, with terrestrial animal resources, as well as freshwater fish and waterfowl from the nearby watercourses and marsh constituting a minor portion of the diet (Estes et al., 2012). This evidence conforms to a larger regional pattern of Late Holocene resource intensification driven by increased population densities and the depletion of high-ranking resources, with an attendant diet breadth expansion in Central California (Broughton, 1994a(Broughton, , 1994b(Broughton, , 2004Groza, 2002;Hildebrandt and Jones, 2002;Hylkema, 2002;Milliken et al., 2007;Wohlgemuth, 1996Wohlgemuth, , 2004. Also during the primary occupation period of CA-ALA-554, Milliken and Bennyhoff (1993) report a transition from high levels of wealth inequality, as measured by the quantity of Olivella shell beads interred in burials, to reduced levels of inequality and higher levels of average wealth. ...
Article
Ethnographic evidence demonstrates that hunter–gatherer children may forage effectively enough to supplement an adult provisioned diet, where ecology, subsistence strategies, and social organization are conducive to juvenile participation. We use stable isotope measures (δ15N and δ13C) from bone collagen and serial-samples of dentinal collagen extracted from first molars to examine childhood dietary patterns among 24 individuals from the Late Holocene Central California site CA-ALA-554. We identify weaning age and early childhood dietary patterns, and find evidence for independent child foraging among 25% of the sample population (n = 6), the majority of whom lived during the high-stress Medieval Climatic Anomaly (1100–700 BP).
... 3. CA-SFR-171 and CA-SMA-6 CA-SFR-171 and CA-SMA-6 are both Late Period 1 (700e 400 cal BP) prehistoric sites on the San Francisco Peninsula (Milliken et al., 2007). They are situated along the western shore of San Francisco Bay some 15 km from each other (see Fig. 1). ...
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Seasonality estimates based on stable isotope analyses of shellfish remains has been an important thrust of settlement pattern reconstruction, allowing researchers to place people on the landscape at points in space at different times of the year. In exposed coastal settings seasonality reconstructions are typically dependent on annual changes in water temperature. This paper has two goals. First, we continue development of a method for determining shellfish harvest seasonality in estuarine environments where annual salinity changes, not temperature, drive isotopic variation. Second, we contribute to settlement pattern studies by showing how small and large sites can be linked into a single system by examining different site types and shellfish species. Our case study focuses on the Late Prehistoric period of the San Francisco Peninsula, includes a large shellmound (CA-SMA-6) and an ephemeral camp (CA-SFR-171), and examines clam (Macoma spp.) and mussel (Mytilus spp.) harvesting. In this case, data support a fission-fusion settlement pattern, with periods of dispersal during late winter through early summer and aggregation in late summer through early winter.
... Jones, 1992, p. 12;Lightfoot and Luby, 2002, pp. 276-277), but recent research (Milliken et al., 2007) suggests that such a shift dates to pre-MCA times. Recent findings do show a significant increase in sites after ca. ...
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Inspired by Stine's [1994. Extreme and persistent drought in California and Patagonia during Mediaeval Time. Nature 369, 546–549.] findings from Mono Lake and Graumlich's [1993. A 1000-year record of temperature and precipitation in the Sierra Nevada. Quaternary Research 39, 249–255.] tree-ring study from the southern Sierra Nevada, California archaeologists have for over a decade been investigating the possibility that prehistoric societies were noticeably impacted by severe droughts during the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA; cal A.D. 800–1350). Decreased production at obsidian sources, dramatic increases in bead production, trade, and sociopolitical complexity in the Channel Islands, and subsistence changes on the central coast were among the trends attributed to drought-related demographic stress by researchers in the 1990s. Review of more recent archaeological research shows that as the search for signs of unusual cultural changes during the MCA has broadened, some of these early patterns (e.g. violence and health problems) have been found to be more complicated and regionally varied than previously thought while others (e.g., settlement disruption, deterioration of long distance trade, and population movements) have been further corroborated.
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Significance California supports a high cultural and linguistic diversity of Indigenous peoples. In a partnership of researchers with the Muwekma Ohlone tribe, we studied genomes of eight present-day tribal members and 12 ancient individuals from two archaeological sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, spanning ∼2,000 y. We find that compared to genomes of Indigenous individuals from throughout the Americas, the 12 ancient individuals are most genetically similar to ancient individuals from Southern California, and that despite spanning a large time period, they share distinctive ancestry. This ancestry is also shared with present-day tribal members, providing evidence of genetic continuity between past and present Indigenous individuals in the region, in contrast to some popular reconstructions based on archaeological and linguistic information.
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