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Deception Island: Archaeology of ′Anyapax, Anacapa Island, California

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posted on 2019-09-12, 14:57 authored by Torben C. Rick, Leslie A. Reeder-Myers
Archaeologists have long been interested in understanding the antiquity and evolution of human occupation of the world’s islands, but relatively limited attention has been given to small islands. With evidence for human occupation at least 13,000 years ago, California’s eight Channel Islands have a long record of coastal settlement and land use, but key questions remain about the smallest islands of Anacapa and Santa Barbara, each less than 3 km2. This volume focuses on the archaeology of Anacapa Island by synthesizing data from excavation, survey, and radiocarbon dating on the island, particularly its eastern segment, during the past 15 years. Anacapa was occupied for at least 5,500 years through the Historic period and likely since the terminal Pleistocene or Early Holocene. People resided on the island during all seasons of the year, with several sites indicating occupation during the early part of the Late Holocene (~3,700 and 2,500 years ago). During this period on Anacapa, people were making bone fishhooks and expedient tools from locally obtained chert. Mammal, fish, and bird bones suggest intensive maritime harvest of a variety of animals, especially harbor seals, albatross, and California sheephead. Island fox bones document the only occurrence of this endemic species outside of the six largest islands. Numerous deer bones indicate trade/interaction with the mainland. Surprisingly, only a handful of gull bones were recovered despite the fact that scores of gulls breed on Anacapa today, suggesting shifts in the island’s ecosystems during historical and modern times. People were also harvesting a variety of nearshore shellfish, especially California mussel, black abalone, and owl limpet. Although small in size and lacking abundant fresh water, the smallest Channel Islands have much to tell us about human prehistory and environmental change on the California coast and on other islands around the world.



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Smithsonian Institution; National Museum of Natural History

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