200 pages, 8 1/2 x 11
San Nicolas Island is the most remote of the California Channel Islands, lying some 100 miles from the mainland. Despite its remoteness, the island has a long history of human occupation, dating back about 7,000 years. The threat to these archaeological sites comes not from humans but from hundreds of sea lions. As they drag their bodies across the dunes, they break the delicate surface crust and expose the underlying middens to wind erosion. SRI developed an unusual approach to their excavations, using a combination of remote sensing, selective mechanical trenching, and broad exposures, with the goal of identifying entire habitation areas. This approach was successful in identifying activity areas, including fishdrying and smoke-curing structures, bead-making areas, and ritual areas. Analyses of the results of these excavations provide new insights into Native American settlement of the island. Among the most surprising finds was the discovery of a local shell-bead-making industry that used sea urchin spines as drills.
RELATED TOPICS: Archaeology
Brian Fagan is the best-known writer on popular archaeology topics in the United States. Emeritus professor at University of California, Santa Barbara, he has written over two dozen archaeology books for the general public--on dating methods, climate change, Egypt, California, the American Southwest, archaeological discoveries, and numerous other topics. He is also author of a dozen leading archaeology textbooks, including 11 editions of In the Beginning. He served as general editor of the Oxford Companion to Archaeology and as a columnist for Archaeology Magazine. Fagan's most recent books are Fish on Fridays and From Stonehenge to Samarkand: An Anthology of Archaeological Travel Writing. Richard Ciolek-Torrello is a Senior Principal Investigator with Statistical Research, Inc., and Co-Principal Investigator of the Lower Verde Archaeological Project.
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