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Botanical Evidence of Paleodietary and Environmental Change: Drought on the Channel Islands, California

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Jeanne E. Arnold
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology and Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1553 (jearnold@ucla.edu)
Lana S. Martin
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1553 (lana.martin@ucla.edu)
Corresponding

Abstract

Fluctuations in climatic regimes and biodiversity through time are linked in complex ways to human behavior and socioeconomic processes. We use macrobotanical evidence from Chumash village sites on California’s Channel Islands to investigate the relationship between late Holocene climatic perturbations and one region of the larger Chumash world. Carbonized plant remains provide evidence of the shifting availability of native plants during the Transitional period (A.D. 1150–1300), when droughts impacted island floral diversity and the Chumash had to cope with changes in vegetation regimes that likely curtailed food availability. We find that drought-resistant plant resources appear in higher relative frequencies in proveniences dating to the Transitional era, and at least one food resource was first imported from the mainland around that time. These findings support the proposition that the Chumash intensified cross-channel trade in part to respond to dietary needs during episodic resource stress. This is also the time when several economic specializations blossomed, including intensive shell bead making. These specializations persisted for six centuries and were central to the development of institutionalized leadership and political complexity in the region ca. A.D. 1200. Various strategies to preserve stability in the plant diet were important elements in the broader reorganization of labor in coastal southern California.

Resumen

Resumen

A través del tiempo fluctuaciones en biodiversidad y en los regímenes climáticos se vinculan de manera compleja en el comportamiento humano y los procesos socioeconómicos. Utilizamos pruebas macrobotánicas de varios sitios del pueblo Chumash en las Channel Islands, California, para investigar la relación entre las perturbaciones climáticas del Holoceno Tardío y una región más grande del mundo Chumash. Restos macrobotánicos carbonizados proveen evidencia de cambios en la disponibilidad de las plantas nativas durante el período Transicional (1150–1300 d.C), período en el cual las sequías impactan la diversidad de la flora en la isla y los Chumash tienen que hacer frente a los cambios en vegetacion que probablemente limitan las disponibilidad de alimentos. Accesibilidad a plantas resistentes a la sequía aparecen con mayor relativa frequencia en contextos del periodo Transicional, al mismo tiempo por lo menos un producto alimenticio primario (Western sea purslane) fue importado por primera vez desde el continente. Estos resultados apoyan la idea de que los Chumash intensificaron el comercio a través del canal, en parte para responder a las necesidades dietéticas durante los períodos de estrés en los recursos naturales. Durante este periodo florecen un numero de especializaciones económicas que incluyen la manufactura intensiva de cuentas de concha. Estas especializaciones persistieron durante los seis siglos siguientes y fueron fundamentales para el desarrollo de liderazgos y una política compleja en la región ca. 1200 d.C. Diversas estrategias para preservar la estabilidad en la dieta vegetal eran los elementos importantes en la reorganización del trabajo más amplio en el sur de la costa de California, durante los cambios económicos, políticos, demográficos, y climáticos más complejos.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Society for American Archaeology 2014

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