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Although this book is devoted primarily to California Indians living just before or in the historic period, that is, after the Spanish conquest of Mexico in A.D. 1519, some knowledge of the lives of Indians during the many millennia before that is of utmost importance. Much concerning the earliest occupation period will always remain speculative, since remains of people dating back to the end of the Pleistocene epoch (about 12,000 years ago) are extremely rare. Assumptions about the early Indian presence may be based on the dating of questionable material, such as charcoal in its various forms, or on the interpretation of the functions of sites or of certain classes of stone objects alleged to be the work of man's hand and occurring in ancient geological deposits. Thus, for several localities, such as Mission Valley in San Diego, Santa Rosa Island in the Santa Barbara Channel group, or the Manix (dry) Lake shore in the western Mohave Desert, claims have been made of human occupancy more than 15,000 years ago. We take the position here that none of these claims has yet been adequately documented or vindicated, and therefore such sites will not be discussed further.


A small number of human skeletal finds from Del Mar near San Diego, from Laguna Beach and Los Angeles ("Los Angeles Man"), and in the Yuha Desert near EI Centro have been dated by one means or another at far older than 15,000 years. It has not been possible to connect any of these human remains with a definite culture, although at least one find, "Los Angeles Man," was apparently associated with bones of now-extinct Pleistocene animals. Some of the methods of interpreting the meaning of the finds, or even the dating methods themselves, might be questioned. Quibbling over such matters, however, may be fruitless when so relatively few specimens are available for scrutiny.

San Dieguito Culture

Even though Indians may have been present in California more than 15,000 years ago, the story here will begin with a culture called San Dieguito, named after a stratified, dated (around 7000 B.C.) site found in the broad bed of the San Dieguito River near San Diego. This is the Harris site (fig. 95). Although it is located near the coast, its culture has been identified not as maritime, but as one more likely following mainly a land hunting mode of life. The culture represented at this site has been associated with other finds from a large portion of what is today called the South­eastern California desert region. It has been suggested that some so-called San Dieguito I sites in this vast area date back to 9000 s.c. These are possibly associated with the beginning of a wet period called Anathermal or Pluvial, which followed the end of the Pleistocene epoch, or "Ice Age." Certainly the locations of these finds in present dry desert terrain do not suggest initial occupation in markedly arid circumstances. Many of the sites are found on hilltops, though not far from "fossil" stream channels or the edges of playas, present-day dry lake basins.

The distribution of San Dieguito sites is scattered. The late Malcolm Rogers of the San Diego Museum of Man, who first formulated the concept of this ancient culture, suggested that it included several "centers" or aspects in Southern California and surrounding regions. The largest of these centers extended well beyond the borders of present­-day California; one relatively small, detached locality in Northern California at Borax Lake, adjacent to Clear Lake, was suggested as a sort of outlier of the San Dieguito culture. The Borax Lake and Harris sites both have layered cultural deposits, but the information about San Dieguito sites in the Mohave or Colorado deserts is derived only from surface collections. Thus the possibilities of properly desig­nating various stages or separate periods of the culture (with Roman numerals) are reduced. Nevertheless, it has been suggested that the Harris site dates from the late end of the sequence, often being termed San Dieguito III in the literature. (In archaeological usage, the earliest known stage of a culture is designated stage I; the later stages, found on layers above it, are numbered II, III, and so on.)

No definite skeletal remains are known for the San Dieguito sites. "Sleeping circles" (fig. 96), areas about 10-12 feet (3-4 m.) in diameter cleared in the stony desert or outlined in stone, and chipped stone implements, like small crescents (fig. 97), generally serve as distinguishing features of the culture, especially in its desert aspects. Milling stones (metates) for grinding seeds are not included in the San Dieguito inventory, but stone tools have been found with retouched or reworked edges, and with pressure flaking, by which small flakes are detached from the original relatively crude edge by means of a tool, perhaps of bone, applied to the old edge by hand pressure. These tools include large projectile points, probably used with thrusting spears or as darts in conjunction with a throwing stick, or atlatl (fig. 98), and a variety of scrapers or knives. The small crescent­-shaped chipped objects, because of their sometimes approxi­mately animal shapes, have been suggested as amulets, but most likely they represent some specialized kind of projectile point. These and the relatively well-made "domed scrapers" (fig. 99) are probably the most distinctive tools for sites generally termed San Dieguito. However, particular shapes of certain classes of projectile points that may be associated with San Dieguito are more intriguing from the standpoint of estimating age.

In many parts of North America besides the San Dieguito area, researchers have found a form of concave-based point with "flutings" extending toward the point from the con­cavity. This style is called the Clovis point, named after an ancient site in New Mexico, where it was first found. In some places it has been found in lower levels of sites dating around 10,000 B.C. Clovis-like points have been recovered from California sites at Borax Lake (fig. 100), Tulare Lake and Lake Mohave, for example, and in all three of these places they have been found associated with stone crescents. At Borax Lake the fluted points and crescents are made of local obsidian, which has been subjected to tests based on the observation that native volcanic glass acquires on its surface over time a measurable amount of water, or a "hydration layer." In theory, the thicker the layer, the older the specimen. While this method of dating is not entirely dependable, it seems to have some usable approximate re­sults for some localities, and the Borax Lake material may provide a good example for application of this dating method. At least, the Borax Lake findings appear otherwise to be consistent with those from what have been called San Dieguito sites elsewhere in California.

Two other types of allegedly ancient projectile points are from the Mohave Desert and are known as Lake Mohave or Silver Lake points (iig. 101). It is possible that these points also are of the same approximate time range as that suggested for the San Dieguito culture and may represent a specific local variation of that culture.

To an archaeologist it would appear that the San Die­guito peoples were primarily hunters of big and small game who had not yet begun to develop specialized implements like milling stones for exploitation of plants, although they almost certainly included plant foods in their diet.

Milling Stone Horizon

Following the San Dieguito in time were cultures that can conveniently be grouped in the category "Milling Stone Horizon." (The term "horizon" as used by archaeologists denotes the similarity of numbers of cultural elements covering a large geographical area during a particu­lar span of time.) This period may have had its begin­nings about 5000 B.C. in Southern California. The term itself was evidently devised to refer at first to essentially coastal peoples, who perhaps more evenly divided their time between hunting and seed-gathering. However, desert groups like the so-called Pinto peoples, living during this time in or around the Mohave Desert, which was then in the grip of an extremely warm climatic period, the Altithermal, could also be included in this horizon. They are usually identified as people using a particular type of projectile point, the "Pinto point" (fig. 102), but they had also adopted the use of the milling stone (fig. 83) for grinding seeds. Excavations at Little Lake, south of Owens Lake, have revealed evidence of a group using Pinto points and milling stones, as well as the Lake Mohave or Silver Lake points characteristic of an earlier period.

According to some investigators, these desert Pinto peo­ple were followed in time by people called Amargosa, perhaps after 1000 B.C., at the beginning of the Medithermal climatic period, which in general was cooler and wetter than the Altithermal; the Medithermal climate seemingly extends to present times in California. The Amargosa people dif­fered from their predecessors in their stoneworking tech­nology; they may have adopted from elsewhere the idea of using the bow and arrow rather than continuing to use the spear thrower as their hunting weapon. Such a change can be inferred from the size and shape of projectile points; that is, small notched or finely stemmed points can easily be associated with the use of lightweight arrows rather than with spears. In later Amargosa times pottery, un­doubtedly from the Southwest (i.e., Arizona), was intro­duced into the Mohave Desert. It has not been possible to estimate precisely when pottery-using Shoshonean-speaking groups like the Chemehuevi, Cahuilla, Luiseňo, and Gabri­elino tribes came to their present locations, but it was probably some time after A.D. 800 or 1000.

On or near the Pacific Coast, a number of post-San Dieguito sites extending from Santa Barbara south to La Jolla have been designated centers of the Milling Stone Horizon. Some of these—for example, the Topanga site­—have in their lower levels indications of the San Dieguito culture, such as chipped stone crescents and domed scrapers (see figs. 97, 99). Various culture designations have been given to these coastal or near-coastal Milling Stone Horizon sites, such as Oak Grove (Santa Barbara region), Topanga (Los Angeles), or La Jolla (San Diego), but all seem to share the kind of stone implements that indicate a strong seed­gathering economy. Hunting was undoubtedly still impor­tant, although Milling Stone Horizon projectile points were generally large and crude. There were present also other fairly crude stone flake-and-core tools (made by striking a stone chunk, or core, to knock off a flake, which might then be further worked to produce the particular tool needed, such as a scraper or a plane). There were few bone objects, and shell implements were rare at any time in earlier California prehistory. In Milling Stone Horizon sites, at least on the mainland, shell tools were either nonexistent or have disappeared through chemical action, having been embedded in the soil for thousands of years.

During the Milling Stone Horizon the Channel Islands (such as Catalina and Santa Rosa islands-though without milling stones) probably began to be occupied by peoples who for some unknown reason were only beginning to realize the great potential food resources to be had from fishing and mollusk-collecting. (There are, however, some radiocarbon dates as early as about 10,000 years ago from sites on Santa Rosa Island. If these dates are in any way connected with peoples engaged in gathering food, then, considering the locations, that food must have included many marine products.) Some archaeologists believe that before 5000 B.C., sea level was lower than at present, and that sites containing evidence of marine adaptation by human occupants may long since have been obliterated by the rising sea level.

After about 1000 B.C., to use an arbitrary date, Milling Stone Horizon groups began to differentiate. They obvi­ously did not give way to successors in any abrupt way, nor even at the same time in different places. The La Jolla peoples around San Diego, for instance, may have con­tinued to follow the traditional ways without any great changes for hundreds of years after 1000 B.C. For the rest, however, it is reasonable to assume that from about that date the homeland stage was being set by the ancestors of some of the peoples whom the sixteenth-century Hispanic explorers found established in the region. Among these would be, in order north from the ethnographic Diegueňo, the Luiseňo, the Gabrielino, and the Chumash.

It may be noted that in the center of this land, that is, between the Hokan speakers (Chumash and Diegueňo), the ancestors of the Shoshonean-speaking Luiseňo and Gabri­elino possibly at some undetermined time drove a wedge and, in the process, occupied the southern Channel Islands. But the archaeological evidence does not seem to register the cultural magnitude of any such intrusion. If the first pottery users in the Mohave Desert around A.D. 800, an estimated date at best, were also Shoshonean speakers, as are the Indians there today, it is difficult to see why pottery did not come to the coast not long afterwards. The introduction of pottery into the territory of the coastal Diegueňo has been suggested as no earlier than about A.D. 1400. At this time their northern neighbors (the ancestral Luiseňo?), still per­haps getting along with vessels of steatite from Catalina Island, were clearly not in possession of much pottery.

At best, the period immediately after 1000 B.C. is not very well known. Approximately representative of this time may be the so-called Hunting, or Intermediate, cultures of the Santa Barbara region, which probably had begun to take shape earlier, perhaps about 2000 B.C. During this time (say, after 2000 B.C.), the important curved abalone-shell fish­hook had made its first known appearance; stone mortars and pestles, suggesting an increased use of acorns with more efficient grinding implements, were now used, although the flatter milling stones were not abandoned. In addition, the hopper mortar, a bottomless conical basket attached around the edge of a depression in a grinding stone by means of asphaltum, was introduced; the hopper mortar also was probably best employed with acorns. Late in the period, the bow and arrow were evidently introduced, although the atlatl may have continued in use.

Canalifio-Chumash Culture

Finally, in the centuries just before the first century A.D., the culture called the Canaliňo began to develop. These people appear to be the direct ancestors of the Chumash. Evidence now suggests that at this time there was a thriving mainland-island community, including what are called to­day Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel islands. The Canaliňo-Chumash probably reached the highest point of achievement in bone, shell, and stone technology in Cali­fornia. With their seagoing boats of planks fastened to­gether with cordage and sealed with asphaltum, they could exploit their rich environment to the full. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first European to see these people, in 1542, and he described them favorably. Referring to the Santa Barbara coastal region, he reported it as "very well settled. . . . Fine canoes each holding twelve or thirteen Indians came to the ships. . . . They have round houses, well-covered down to the ground. They wear skins of many different animals, eat acorns and a white seed the size of maize which is used to make tamales [probably the kernels of pits of the Holly-leaved Cherry, or Islay (Prunus ilicifolia)]. They live well." (Quotations are from an abstract of a surviving account of Cabrillo’s voyage, translated by H. R. Wagner in the California Hístoricol Society Quarterly, 7 (1928): 41-54.)


Central California consists of the vast region comprising the Great Central Valley, the drainages of the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, and the San Francisco Bay area. Dating of sites thought to be earliest in this region is not altogether satisfactory. The Tulare Lake finds, already mentioned, for example, are of stone implements thought to be ancient, but they are from surface collections. From Buena Vista Lake, south of Tulare Lake, a radiocarbon date of about 5500 B.C. from a buried cultural stratum has been associated with the find of a chipped stone crescent. Sites at Buena Vista and Tulare lakes, together with that at Borax Lake, in the north Coast Ranges not far from the western margin of the Central Valley, all contain material pointing to affinities in time with the San Dieguito culture. (See fig. 95.)

Near Fresno, at the Tranquillity Site, human bones have been found and are allegedly associated with fossilized bones of extinct Pleistocene mammals (camel, horse, and bison) probably from at least 10,000 B.C.; but the artifacts with the human remains resemble those from more defi­nitely dated sites of about 1000 B.C. in the San Joaquin River delta area. Farther north at the Farmington site east of Stockton, a large assemblage of crudely flaked stone tools (e.g., choppers and scrapers) has been found in buried gravel deposits. No radiocarbon dates or bones of extinct animals are available at this site to help date these implements.

Early Horizon

It is not until we come to the region of the Sacramento­San Joaquin River delta and San Francisco Bay that we find an already flourishing hunting-gathering culture, whose earliest radiocarbon dates are about 2500 B.C. This has been named the culture of the Early Horizon in Central Cali­fornia, and it represents the beginning of a well-documented sequence that extends right up to the time of contact between Indians and whites. From the relative sophistica­tion of artifacts of shell, bone, and stone, especially the latter (fig. 103), among these Early Horizon people, we may assume that the antecedents of the culture are much older than the 2500 B.C. date, but we cannot be certain just where the point of origin was-that is, whether it was local (California) or some more distant part of North America. From the distribution of language stocks (see fig. 1) in California, it may be postulated that members of the Hokan stock were Early Horizon people, that they were the early occupants of Central California, and that they were later displaced by the Penutians, who remained in the Central Valley until the time of contact with the whites.

The archaeological record does show some kind of cul­tural change in about 1000 B.C., mainly a change of empha­sis in certain practices. The new archaeological culture is referred to as Middle Horizon. The people of this culture continued many of the usages of their predecessors in shell, stone, and bone, although they seemingly elaborated bone artifacts like awls, needles, and harpoons far beyond the Early Horizon people. The finding of a fair number of Middle Horizon skeletons with stone projectile points em­bedded in their bones may indicate that this period was a time of violence or upheaval, or it may merely signify some esoteric ritual burial practice having nothing to do with war or intrusion by foreigners. Evidently these people spread beyond the confines of the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and the region of San Francisco Bay, for evidences of their presence have been found in abundance on the Central California coast and far up both main rivers.

Late Horizon

From these beginnings, practically the whole of Central California apparently was settled, probably by peoples speaking Penutian languages. As they spread farther from the center—from San Francisco Bay and the delta region—they seemingly adapted to different physical conditions and began to differentiate in culture and probably in language. Nevertheless, probably through the agencies of common language stock and continuing trade, a distinct culture evolved which has come to be called Late Horizon. It appears to have taken its essential form by about ,a.D. 300, when the bow seems to have almost entirely supplanted the spear thrower as the principal hunting weapon for the Middle Horizon people. The Late culture, like its Canaliňo contemporary around Santa Barbara, excelled in bone and even more in shell work.

That the Late people were highly developed acorn gath­erers is indicated archaeologically by the numbers of imple­ments used in processing this nutritious nut. Besides the familiar mortars and pestles, there is other evidence of a strong commitment to the acorn industry: charred frag­ments of baskets, bone awls for making baskets, and even objects of baked clay, which were almost certainly used as substitutes for heated natural stones for cooking acorns in baskets. There is even a legitimate suggestion that the acorn complex, and especially its strong integral use of baskets, was reason enough why the Late Horizon peoples did not adapt pottery vessels to their inventory of cooking devices; pots would not have appreciably improved the total process­ing technology.

Late Horizon sites show certain minor distinctive features in each of several different parts of Central California. Figure 103, however, illustrates salient parts of the material culture of peoples living in the supposed "hearth land" around the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta only during the past 800 years or so, until the time of contact with whites. (See plate 16.) Late Horizon peoples in any part of the Central Valley and its immediate environs had probably already settled about 1000 years ago in the localities where they were later observed by ethnographers, who identified the areas as the territories of the Costanoans (San Francisco Bay region and the Pacific Coast south to Monterey); the Southern Wintun, or Patwin (western Sacramento Valley), the Maidu (eastern Sacramento Valley and the adjoining Sierra Nevada), the Miwok (Coast Ranges north of San Francisco, the northern San Joaquin Valley, and a long section of the southern Sierra Nevada), and the Yokuts (almost all of the southern San Joaquin Valley and parts of both the Sierra Nevada and the south Coast Ranges).


The main crest of the Sierra Nevada has probably repre­sented a significant cultural barrier for a long time. The most recent important breach appears to have been made by the Numic-speaking Monache (Western Mono) in thesouth­ern part of the range, whose ancestors probably came over the crest from Owens Valley during the last 600 years or so. The Monache probably brought with them the knowledge of a crude kind of pottery called Owens Valley Brown ware, used by them and by some neighboring Yokuts groups until very recent times.

Ancestors of the Hokan-speaking Washo of the Lake Tahoe region, essentially to the east of the Sierran crest, possibly came to that territory at some ancient time, or they could have been removed from frequent contact with the west side of the mountains after the so-called Penutian invasion.

For a vast stretch of the western side of the Sierra Nevada, including Yosemite Valley, researchers have dis­covered a series of culture sequences, perhaps beginning about 1000 B.C., which are related in stoneworking tech­nology and other features to Middle and Late Horizon Central California cultures and to those of the Great Basin as well. Again, these relationships may have been strength­ened by trade, since great numbers of Pacific Coast shell artifacts have been found at habitation sites in the Great Basin east of the Sierra, and Sierran obsidian has been found in considerable quantities in the Central Valley and on the Pacific Coast. Limestone mortuary caverns of the western foothills in the southern Sierra Nevada also contain Middle Horizon types of coastal shell beads and ornaments.

For the southern Cascade-Modoc Plateau in North­eastern California, the archaeological picture is roughly similar to that of the Sierra, with perhaps even earlier sites, going back to about 3000 B.C., in the region of the upper Pit River. One site with a date of about 1350 B.C. has been found on a tributary of the Pit River; this may be associated, with some archaeological evidence, with the Hokan-Penu­tian transition in California. In any case, affiliations with both Central California Middle Horizon and coexisting cultures in the Great Basin have been noted in the region. It is possible that the ancestral Hokan-speaking Yana, Atsu­gewi, and Achomawi peoples were all displaced by the Penutians and arrived at approximately their recent loca­tions in about 1000 B.C. Whether this is so or not, it seems apparent that by Late Horizon times all of these southern Cascade peoples were receiving influences from Central California.

In the south Coast Ranges, between the territories of the ethnographic northern Chumash around San Luis Obispo and the Costanoans of Monterey, lay a sort of cultural backwater, the land of the ethnographic Salinans, also Ho­kan speakers. No markedly ancient implements have been found here so far, although it may be noted that at Diablo Canyon, near San Luis Obispo, a site with an early culture deposit dated about 7000 B.C. has been recorded. The earliest carbon 14 date of any known site in the Salinan region is about A.D. 50, from a coastal site, corresponding with the late Middle Horizon in Central California. Evi­dently this region was influenced strongly from the Santa Barbara coastal area as well as the San Francisco Bay region. The main villages known were marine oriented. Seeds, and especially acorns, were ground in hopper mor­tars, a style probably derived from the Santa Barbara region as were, apparently, the curved-shell fishhooks.

The post-Pleistocene climatic patterns (with the sequen­tial periods Anathermal, Altithermal, and Medithermal de­noting marked fluctuations during the past 10,000 years) appear to have had powerful cultural effects in what are today the arid or desert parts of California. Along the coast, in the mountains, and in the northern part of the Central Valley and its margins, such effects surely must also have been felt, although not so critically or over such a wide area as in the desert region.

We have already noted, in the north Coast Ranges, at Borax Lake, some stone artifacts, "fluted" projectile points and crescents, which resemble those found in the San Dieguito sites in Southeastern (i.e., "arid") California. Whatever the exact age of the Borax Lake specimens may be, they almost certainly represent the beginning or early stage of a cultural sequence that has been detected in various parts of the range. In the Napa Valley, for example, numerous crude stone implements have been found, which are undated as yet but which probably represent a slightly later stage of the basic Borax Lake period.

A site near Willits, radiocarbon-dated at about 1800 B.C., had in its lower levels a number of concave-based (unfluted) projectile points, also seemingly related to the early Borax Lake complex, though of a much later time. These points have been assigned to a culture called the Mendocino complex, which in turn appears to have some relationships to Middle Horizon Central California and to various Great Basin sites as well. The Mendocino complex included milling stones as well as bowl mortars. Shell beads, which have been used extensively in Central California for cross­dating many sites from which materials for radiocarbon dating have not otherwise been obtained, were not present at early time levels at many sites in the north Coast Ranges. Later sites, corresponding to Late Horizon Central Cali­fornia, have been found at numerous localities in the north Coast Ranges. In upper levels, often designated as of the Clear Lake complex, hopper (slab) mortars, beads of mag­nesite, and small, triangular, side-notched projectile points were found. These are points with small notches near the base on both sides, used for securing the point to the wooden arrow with cordage. At least once, a carefully made stone-lined earth oven was also excavated. All these could be attributed to either the ethnographic Pomo or the Yuki of the region.

The question of regional ancestry of both the Pomo and the Yuki is a difficult one. The earliest Borax Lake people could conceivably have been Hokan speakers from whom the Pomo were derived; alternatively, the Pomo could have come into the area after the "Penutian invasion," perhaps in about 1000 B.C., or even much later. The Yuki (and the related Wappo in Napa County) pose an even greater dilemma, for they represent the one linguistic group in California for whom at this writing no outside linguistic relatives have been determined. They may therefore be the oldest occupants of the region, perhaps with ancestors dating from San Dieguito times; or their forebears may have come in at some later time, possibly separating themselves from antecedents who have not been identified or whose languages have not yet been sufficiently analyzed to allow an estimate of the date of separation. (See also chapter 2.)

The last region to be considered in this survey is the northwestern corner of California and a small part of southwestern Oregon, comprising parts of the north Coast Ranges as well as the Klamath Mountains, which form a good proportion of the drainage of the Klamath River. Along the lower course of that river, groups representing three great linguistic stocks lived: Athabascans (e.g., Hupa), Algonkians (Yurok), and Hokans (Karok). Little is known of the prehistory of the Klamath River itself, since so few sites have been excavated, none of an antiquity beyond about 800 years ago. The ethnographic Klamath River peoples, Hupa, Yurok, and Karok, had virtually identical ways of living. The Yurok also occupied a stretch of coastal land on both sides of the mouth of the Klamath River. From there and from coastal land to both the south and the north (about 50 miles into Oregon), we have sufficient information to allow discussion of Northwestern California prehistory in some depth.

Although the mouth of the Klamath appears to have been the center of a rich and unique cultural development, we can assume for convenience that a similar adaptation to the coastal environment prevailed throughout the entire strip, from just south of Humboldt Bay to the territory of the Athabascan-speaking Chetco in southern Oregon. The earli­est dates in this region come from a site in the land of the ethnographic Chetco, at the mouth of the Pistol River. A carbon 14 date of about 3000 B.C. is recorded here from a cultural level with large heavy points having a suggestion of edge serration. At a site at Point St. George, in ethnographic Tolowa territory (the Tolowa were also Athabascan speak­ers), near Crescent City, California, a date of 300 B.C. has been obtained from a sandy level apparently containing some crudely chipped stone tools. Neither of these early dates is late enough to be associated with the earliest Athabascan presence in the region, nor can the dates be associated with the characteristically rich later prehistoric culture of this coastal area, especially that aspect of it just south of the Klamath River (figs. 104, 105). Here there are carbon 14 dates of only about A.D. 900, which seem to date the rich culture, apparently a fully developed maritime culture that was discontinuous with the complex marine culture north of the Columbia River. Some archaeologists suggest that the beginnings of this coastal culture in the lower Klamath River region must largely have occurred at a time of lower sea level, and hence that its early sites must today be buried offshore.

With but few exceptions, the known archaeological cul­ture of the region is approximately the same as that of the ethnographic coastal Yurok and their neighbors, Tolowa to the north and Wiyot to the south. Emphasis was on sea-lion hunting, fishing, and shellfish gathering, although hopper mortars suggest forays into the interior for acorns. Bone spearheads, barbed bone or antler harpoons-some slit at the tip to receive chipped stone points with concave bases­bone shuttles used in the manufacture of fishnets, grooved stone sinkers, and bone fishhooks similar to those from the Santa Barbara region were important in the local tech­nology. Besides the stone harpoon points there were finely chipped large barbed arrowheads and arrowshaft smoothers consisting of two pieces of abrading stones with grooves. Finely shaped steatite bowls were used for catching the grease from cooking salmon. Stone mauls and elaborate adze handles (to receive, at first, shell blades, and later, metal blades from European sources) were used for producing planks for houses and for shaping all manner of redwood and cedar items, including large dugout canoes. All these artifacts point to another climax development similar to that of the Canaliňo-Chumash. Since the Yurok did not suffer near-extinction at the hands of the missionaries as did the Chumash, for example, the gradual grading of their prehistoric culture into the present was observed in greater detail than can that of most of the southern tribes.


In the attempt to trace the origins of the peoples of California who were encountered by the Spanish explorers and others during and after the sixteenth century, we have seen that the only feasible methods for detecting basic customs of the earlier periods depend on analysis of stone materials. Stone implements surely express important parts of the hunting and gathering processes, but there is some­thing unsatisfying about characterizing whole groups of people simply as those who used Clovis-like points, Pinto points, or even milling stones. Such categorizing only means that people were responding in certain ways to different and changing environments, and that we are able to discern these responses with but a limited number of kinds of artifacts. When it is necessary to define cultures in such broad terms, it is easy to lose sight of the facts that transitions between conventionally named periods often required hundreds of years to occur, and that any given transition, probably in keeping with different environmental conditions, did not take place at the same time throughout a wide region.

We can only speculate about what brought about the major transitions. Environmental conditions, that is, cli­matic events, must ultimately have played the chief role, but local preferences concerning the sites for villages, perhaps even in aesthetic terms, must also have been important. Another major factor was the effect of accelerating human inventions, such as those involved in the whole complex of acorn preparation.

From San Dieguito times onward there appears to have been an exchange of ideas or goods, through either peaceful trade or migration, and perhaps through physical invasion. Although certain valid inferences about migrations can be drawn from the present geographical distribution of lin­guistic stocks, especially those relating to Hokan-Penutian, we can presently use these data only in the crudest way to make statements about the time of such migrations.

In all, no matter what forces were in play, it is possible for us to see, from a time beginning about I 1,000 years ago, a sporadic but consistent series of efforts to better the human condition, or at least to ensure survival, in the ever-changing environment of California.

California is rich in archaeological sites. Many of these, perhaps four or five thousand, were occupied when the whites first appeared, but were soon abandoned when village populations were drawn into missions in the Spanish period. The depopulation that began during the mission period was hastened by epidemic diseases introduced by the Europeans. The malaria epidemic of 1830-1834 in the Great Interior Valley continued the trend; and the outright killing of Indians was a common occurrence in California during the Gold Rush.

No full count of prehistoric village sites in California has ever been attempted, because large sections of the state have never been surveyed by archaeologists. About 30,000 sites of all categories (temporary campsites used perhaps only once or twice; stone quarries; petroglyph sites; permanently occupied village sites; seasonal hunting, fishing, or collect­ing camps; cemeteries) have been recorded to date, and it is probable that the full total would run to about 100,000. Many known archaeological sites were abandoned long before the whites appeared and began to disrupt the native settlement system. Many prehistoric sites that were once occupied were later abandoned. Among the reasons given by Indians for leaving one village site and for establishing a new one were floods; attacks by hostile villages situated nearby; internal quarrels between families, which might cause a village population to split in two; dread of ghosts of former occupants, who were believed to return and "haunt" the village; uncontrollable infestation of fleas; and others. Father Pedro Font in 1776 observed that a number of Chumash villages along the Santa Barbara Channel were not occupied, because "the year had been without rain and their watering places gave out." Anthropologist T. T. Water­man reported in 1920 on several reasons why the Yurok in the northwestern part of the state founded new towns:

Like most primitive people, the Yurok change their places of abode very abruptly. No doubt the relative size and importance of towns has shifted from time to time. I think the Yurok may have been more prone to change their places of abode than the average tribe. In addition to all the usual causes of change of abode (disease, floods, attacks of enemies, bad dreams, and plain fidgetiness), the Yurok are extremely quarrelsome. Prominent among their traits is a certain sinful pride, a love of squabbling, and readiness to take offense, These result indirectly in the shifting of habitations. . . . If an individual commits a homicide, . . . that individual is an uncomfortable person to have around. Unless his cause is so just, his character so upright, or his personality so winning that his towns-people are ready to join in his defense and make common cause with him, the village usually makes it so unpleasant for him that he leaves. . . . In most cases in which a man moves off in this way he begins sooner or later to "pay for" the man he has killed. The price for a homicide is pretty high, however, and a number of years are often occupied in making up the full sum, which is paid in installments. When he has completed his payments, he often does not feel like moving back. If he makes his new home a permanent one, and raises a large family there, the addition of new houses gradually lends the place the character of a settlement. . . . Some very important towns are said to have started in this way.
Waterman also describes natural calamities as a cause for changing village locations:

[Klamath] River towns are usually more than a hundred feet above the stream, which has in places an annual rise of more than seventy vertical feet. A tremendous flood in the winter of 1862 . . . somewhat changed the location of settlements; a good many towns were permanently moved to higher sites, and others where the houses were washed down the river were abandoned.

The occupants of a village spent much of their time foraging the countryside, bringing home all kinds of useful items: killed game animals, firewood, seeds, houseposts, stone for making implements, rocks to be heated for stone­boiling in baskets, and so on. Graves for the dead were usually dug somewhere on the village site. The residues of all these activities became part of the deposit which we see today as an archaeological site.

To what extent Indians, during their occupancy or use of the land of California for many thousands of years, caused an appreciable effect on topography or plant and animal distribution is not known. There are hints that repeated burning off of valley areas may have considerably reduced the growth of oaks and that these areas became parklands or even grasslands. In places where Indians lived for many generations and accumulated substantial piles of refuse ("Indian mounds," "shell mounds," etc.), there was created a distinctive soil chemistry especially rich in phosphorus and calcium. It appears that the growth of certain plants useful to the Indians (such as tobacco, doveweed, and thistles) was especially favorable in these soils, so that even today old Indian village sites can often be easily identified at a distance because of the exuberant growth of one or another of these particular plants, more than a century after the sites were abandoned.

The California black walnuts (Juglans spp.) and Buck­eye (Aesculus californica) often cluster in isolated grooves on prehistoric living sites, and these too must be vol­unteers that found a favorable microhabitat in ancient campsites where the seeds or nuts were brought for food. Present-day Washoe Indians are aware that old summer campsites tend to support a rich growth of Western Choke­cherry bushes (Prunus virginiana var. dimissa), clumps that presumably were generated long ago from berries brought back to camp from food-gathering trips.

A careful study of the botany of prehistoric Indian campsites might show that Indians did act as important agents for the dispersal of certain grasses, berry-producing shrubs, and trees. So far as is known from the archaeologi cal record, California Indians never overhunted any animal to the point of extinction. Some animals may have been so heavily exploited that their numbers were locally reduced; but as predators Indians do not seem to have affected the overall distribution of any game animals or birds.

With no reason or means to create large earth distur­bances, the Indians did not make topographical changes. There is, however, a report of two Pomo tribelets who got into an altercation over ownership of fish in a small stream flowing into Clear Lake. One of the groups managed to divert the stream so that it flowed, undeniably, through its own tribal grounds. It has also been said that some Sacra­mento Valley villagers deliberately piled up earth to raise the level of the surface above spring flood waters, but archaeol­ogists who have carefully examined the layering of such mounds have never found any evidence of the deliberate piling up of soil. Rather, the mounds are simply accumu­lations of refuse that resulted from intensive living in a restricted area over centuries.

Taken altogether the Indians of California do not seem to have appreciably changed the topography or the biota of California. No animal extinctions can be attributed to them, but some local distributions of plants or animals could have been slightly changed through their activities. Evidence of such change has not been carefully looked for by biologists, and so we should not at this time take too positive a position on the matter.

During the Spanish period in California many new plants were introduced. Some of them, such as Wild Oats (Avena, ratua), managed to spread very widely in the new environ­ment. The Anglo-Americans after 1850, with their gardens and field crops, made many more such introductions. It is surprising to some persons to learn how many familiar shrubs and weeds have been introduced in the historic period and have thus affected the flora and the appearance of California.

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