North American Paleocostal

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Chapter 1 The North American Paleocoastal Concept Reconsidered Loren G. Davis Introduction The Pleistocene archaeological record of North America’s Pacific coast is understood from only a handful of sites that postdate the continent’s earliest interior sites by at least 500 radiocarbon years. Like other coastal regions of the world, the reasons that early North American Pacific coastal sites are so few in number relate to late Quaternary environmental history: postglacial marine transgression
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  3N.F. Bicho et al. (eds.), Trekking the Shore: Changing Coastlines and the Antiquityof Coastal Settlement  , Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology,DOI 10.1007/978-1-4419-8219-3_1, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011 Introduction The Pleistocene archaeological record of North America’s Pacific coast is under-stood from only a handful of sites that postdate the continent’s earliest interior sitesby at least 500 radiocarbon years. Like other coastal regions of the world, the rea-sons that early North American Pacific coastal sites are so few in number relate tolate Quaternary environmental history: postglacial marine transgression submergedolder coastal terrains and sites, leaving behind only a small portion of a previouslylarger coastal and pericoastal landscape and any sites it might contain (cf. Daviset al.2009). Although many early continental sites were also surely destroyed orconcealed by periglacial and postglacial geomorphic processes, few regions, suchas those parts of the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia River drainage that wereaffected by the catastrophic outburst floods of Glacial Lake Missoula and PluvialLake Bonneville, share the same extremes of postdepositional history as the world’scoastal zones. In spite of these difficulties of site preservation, a small number of late Pleistocene-aged North American Pacific coastal sites are known from BritishColumbia to Baja California Sur.In addition to postdating North America’s earliest interior Paleoindian sites (i.e.,Clovis cultural components), North American Pacific coastal sites are also muchyounger than other key pre-Clovis contenders of the New World’s western margin,including South America’s Quebrada Jaguay, Quebrada Tacahuay, and Monte Verdesites (Keefer et al.1998; Sandweiss et al.1998; Dillehay1989; Dillehay et al. 2009), and the Paisley Five Mile Rockshelter site in southern Oregon (Gilbert et al.2009) (Fig.1.1). Although the route of initial human entry into the Americas was traditionally assumed to include a pedestrian migration from eastern Beringia L.G. Davis ( * )Department of Anthropology, Oregon State University, 238 Waldo Hall,Corvallis, OR 97331, USAe-mail: loren.davis@oregonstate.edu Chapter 1 The North American Paleocoastal ConceptReconsidered Loren G. Davis  4L.G. Davis southward through a gap between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets, thispath may not have been available or viable in time to allow humans to arrive at pre-Clovis sites before 12,400 RCYBP (14,500 cal BP). In this context, a Pacific coastalroute of initial entry is given considerable attention because it has no clear restric-tions to pre-Clovis human migration (Mandryk et al.2001). If the First Americansinitially moved south beyond Beringia by skirting the edge of Late Wisconsinan icealong the shores of modern-day Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon,we should expect that the region will hold archaeological sites that predate 12,400 Fig. 1.1   Map of the New World showing archaeological sites ( squares ), marine cores ( closed circles ; numbers in open circles correspond with reference in key), and islands mentioned in text  51 The North American Paleocoastal Concept Reconsidered RCYBP (14,500 cal BP). If the hypothesis that the initial peopling of the Americasincluded an aspect of coastal migration is correct, then the northeastern Pacific coastis a critical area of archaeological concern (Fladmark1979; Gruhn1988; Dixon 1999; Erlandson2002; Mandryk et al.2001; Goebel et al.2008); however, at this time, we possess no knowledge about North American Pacific coastal sites datingbetween 12,400 and 10,700 RCYBP (14,500–12,800 cal BP) – the period contem-poraneous with the earliest evidence of New World human occupation.The North American Paleocoastal concept has been used to define the earliestperiod of human occupation along the northeastern Pacific Ocean shoreline andprovides a salient example of how the early record of North American Pacificcoastal prehistory is conceptualized by some archaeologists (e.g., Davis et al.1969;Moratto1984; Erlandson et al.1996; Erlandson2009; Cassidy et al.2004; Rick et al.2005). Although this concept is primarily rooted in archaeological researchconducted in southern California and is based on late Pleistocene to early Holocene(LP-EH) period archaeological evidence that postdates 10,700 RCYBP (12,800 calBP), it is more broadly considered to closely reflect the adaptations employed bythe First Americans, and perhaps even by initial coastal migrants. Despite itsconceptualization as a potential analogy of the New World’s first coastal peoples,I argue here that the North American Paleocoastal concept is flawed for two mainreasons: first, the concept is based on an archaeological record that is too young torepresent the First Americans; second, the concept is not applied within a full con-ceptualization of the late Pleistocene environmental context of the eastern Pacificduring the time of initial human entry, and thus, cannot directly inform our under-standing of the earliest New World coastal adaptations. Instead of being based onrelevant perspectives on early coastal archaeological patterns, our current view of aNorth American Paleocoastal adaptation is based on sites with cultural componentsthat were contemporaneous with postglacial oceanographic conditions, which aremuch more relevant to Holocene-aged archaeological patterns. This is a significantproblem that I believe is keeping archaeologists from understanding the adaptivecontext of North America’s late Pleistocene-aged coastal environments and theinfluence they had on early foraging peoples and their archaeological record. Toresolve this problem, we must improve our knowledge of late Pleistocene oceano-graphic and pericoastal conditions in ways that contribute information about theenvironmental and economic conditions in which the first North American coastalpeoples lived. Toward this particular end, this chapter discusses the contextual basisof New World Pacific late Pleistocene coastal adaptations by reviewing the archae-ological record of the earliest North American coastal sites, examines the historicaluse of the Paleocoastal concept and gauge its appropriateness, presents a meta-analysis of late Quaternary environmental conditions of the eastern Pacific Ocean,and discusses the potential archaeological implications of these conditions asrelated to the adaptive context of early North American coastal peoples. Ultimately,I hope to clear out some of the unnecessary conceptual underbrush that is currentlyassociated with early North American coastal archaeology so that we might moveforward unencumbered by these theoretical views and develop better models of Pleistocene period coastal prehistory.  6L.G. Davis The North American Paleocoastal Conceptas an Archaeological Construct Davis et al. (1969) provide the first comprehensive use of the Paleocoastal conceptin North American archaeology, which they define as a coastal variant of theirlarger “Western Lithic Co-Tradition” concept. The Western Lithic Co-Traditionconcept provides a synthesis of shared lithic industries seen in late Pleistocene toearly Holocene-aged sites in western North America that notably include thefollowing: nonfluted stemmed and foliate projectile points, domed scraper planes,unifaces, crescents, utilitarian ovate bifaces, and informal flake tools produced onmacroflakes struck from unidirectional, multidirectional (i.e., amorphous), andcentripetal cores, and the use of lower quality locally abundant raw materialspresent in cobble form (Davis et al.1969:22–28). Economic variability expressedin these early sites is considered to reflect the range of cultural activities per-formed in different environments, extending from the Pacific coast to the interiordesert regions. Davis et al. (1969:9) describe the early Holocene-aged SanDieguito cultural component from the Harris Site in San Diego County as part of a “Paleo-coastal Tradition,” not only in part due to its technological patterns butalso apparently due to its age and its close proximity (ca. 10 km) to the PacificOcean.To Moratto (1984), the Paleocoastal Tradition is primarily defined on the basisof an economic orientation toward the use of marine resources as evidenced by latePleistocene to early Holocene-aged midden sites along the California coastal zone.Following Davis et al. (1969), Morratto (1984:104) suspects that the Paleocoastal Tradition shares cultural affinities with the contemporaneous inland-orientedWestern Pluvial Lakes Tradition – an archaeological construct that is similar toBedwell’s (1970) Western Lithic Co-Tradition concept due to “Comparable flaked-stone tool inventories, found throughout southern California between 11,000 and8,000 BP, [that] evince widespread technological relationships. The coastal mani-festations are set apart mainly with respect to exploitative practices, settlementpatterns, apparent degree of sedentism (although this has been defined only tenu-ously), and artifacts other than flaked stone.”Erlandson (2009) considers Paleocoastal to mean “seafaring Paleoindian”peoples, based on their interpretation of terminal Pleistocene to early Holocene-aged (8,600 to ~11,500 cal BP (Erlandson and Jew2009)) maritime resource use atDaisy Cave, which is located on San Miguel Island in the Northern Channel Islandsof southern California. Erlandson et al. (1996:370) elaborate on this particular useof the term:“Thus, the terminal Pleistocene component at Daisy Cave currently representsthe earliest known Paleocoastal occupation on the California coast. Currently, itseems most likely that these early maritime peoples were descended from evenearlier Paleoindian peoples who appear to have left Clovis-like fluted points on thesouthern California coast (see Erlandson et al.1987) a millennium or more prior tothe initial occupation of Daisy Cave. Nonetheless, the data from Daisy Cave provide
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