Beads, Bifaces, and Boats: An Early Maritime Adaptation on the South Coast of San Miguel Island, California

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Abstract

Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene sites on California's Channel Islands provide evidence for early maritime activity, including the use of seaworthy boats. Numerous early shell middens have been identified, but specific information on the maritime peoples who occupied them is limited. Our research at CA-SMI-608, a roughly 9,500-year-old shell midden on San Miguel Island, produced a relatively large assemblage of bifaces and other chipped stone artifacts, shell beads, worked bone, and well-preserved faunal remains. Food remains are dominated by mussels, abalones, and other shellfish from the rocky intertidal, but fish, sea mammal, and sea bird remains were also recovered. These data provide a detailed view of early maritime activities along an arid coastline previously considered marginal to human settlement.

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