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Journal of California and Great Basin

UC Merced

Peer Reviewed

"Invisible" Archaeological Deposits at Small Milling Sites
Journal Issue:
Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, 13(2)

Parr, Robert E., California State University, Bakersfield
Sutton, Mark Q., California State University, Bakersfield

Publication Date:

Publication Info:
Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, UC Merced Library, UC Merced


ethnography, ethnohistory, archaeology, prehistory, native peoples

If we are to more completely understand the development of the native cultures of the California
coast, we must have more and better chronological data on which to base our interpretations. The
most powerful chronological tool we have continues to be radiocarbon dating. Carefully selected,
analyzed, and interpreted radiocarbon dates help us refine our chronologies by placing cultural
developments in a more precise temporal framework. They also provide valuable data on shifts in
settlement and demography through time (see Glassow et al. 1988). Despite these obvious facts,
there are many important archaeological collections or sites that have never been radiocarbon
dated, or that remain inadequately dated. So many sites in California are threatened by erosion,
vandalism, or development that collecting more and better chronological data should be an urgent
priority. Fortunately, CA-SMI-1 is not threatened by erosion or development. It is, however, one
of the few archaeological sites on San Miguel Island for which significant excavation data are
available. Two radiocarbon dates from the middle levels of the midden suggest that at least two
separate occupations of the site took place, one about 7,000 years ago and another beginning
about 3,350 years ago. As is often the case, further dating and detailed research are needed to
place the archaeological assemblage from CASMI- 1 in a more refined cultural and ecological

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Report of Califomia. University of Califomia. (e. W. Snethkamp. Snethkamp Parkington. Based on these data. content. Bakersfield. the presence or absence. Daniel Guthrie. Phillip L. and versity of Califomia. Barbara. 1968 Prehistory of Santa Rosa Island. Miguel Island-1982: Prehistoric Adapta- tions to the Marine Environment. Donald L. 64-77. there is no other option. stations). archaeologists will assume that no subsurface Radiocarbon 28:980-1021. Ph. Smithsonian Institution Annual done without the benefit of excavation data Report 1874:335-350. In the case of some sites the Society for Califomia Archaeology. deposit is present. Bailey and J. Phil C. San Miguel Island. Roberta S. architechire.. soil color differences. Los Angeles: Los Ange- les County Museum of Natural History.. 1804.9001 StockdaleHwy. Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of ARCHAEOLOGICAL sites always are initially Namral History. garding the significance of sites.D. Ph. Dept. REPORTS 279 of Prehistoric Coastlines. Orr. Walker.. Califomia. 1981 The Evolution of Chumash Society: A "Invisible" Archaeological Deposits Comparative Study of Artifacts Used in Social System Maintenance in the Santa at Small Milling Sites Barbara Channel Region before A. Santa Channel Islands National Monument. 1978 An Ethnozoological Analysis of Faunal 1971 Some Aspects of Santa Barbara Charmel Remains from Four Santa Barbara Chan- Prehistory. Phillip. California State Univ. Bakersfield. Quaternary Research 15:105-106. Miguel Island. characterized and evaluated (even if only on the Rozaire. extent. it appears that in the absence of Smiver. ROBERT E. and Dan Guthrie The presence or absence of a subsurface deposit 1988 The Early Holocene Occupations of Daisy Cave. Robert L. site record) by surface indications. Cali- Barbara.D. Steven Craig. dissertation. archaeologists speculate on les County Museum of Natural History. . G. At the survey (inventory) level of investigation. Walker. many 1986 Radiocarbon Age Calibration of Marine Samples Back to 9000 CAL YR BP. Pandora E. Charles E.D. and age Schumacher. 1981 More Comments on the Northem Channel Islands Mammoths. dissertation. Ph. and T. Paul of subsurface deposits and make decisions re- 1875 Ancient Graves and Shell Heaps of Cali. 1965 Archeological Investigations on San bedrock milling features. 1978 Archeological Investigations on San Miguel Island. This often is fomia. G. Santa Johnson.g. Lawrence. Roderick Moore Hoover. Davis. is postulated based on the presence and nature of Paper presented at the annual meeting of surface materials. Berkeley. etc. Los Angeles: Los Ange. Pearson. CA 93311. King. small lithic scatters or bedrock milling Redding. Califomia. of Sociology and Andiropology. Santa Barbara. pp. University of California. Chester D.D. either to confirm or modify the initial evaluation. M. PARR and MARK Q. on file at the Department of Anthropolo- gy. Report on file at the Department of Anthropology. University nel Island Archaeological Sites.. London: 1984 Archaeological Investigations on San Cambridge University Press. visible artifacts. Volumes I and II.. SUTTON. University of Kansas. Report Greenwood.. dissertation. eds. University of Califomia. Braziunas positive information to the contrary. 1972 Landscape Evolution on San Miguel Island. on file at the Office of Public Archaeolo- 1978 Archaeological Survey and Investigation: gy. Uni.. and Pandora E. fomia.

Substantial THE STUDY subsurface deposits were located at these sites. long-term milling. . was conducted by CSU Bakersfield (Parr 1991). effects: 1) an inability to model and predict Two sites in Hart Flat exhibited a sufficient such occurrences in the future. A tentative site classification scheme for Hart Flat includes three site categories: short- term milling. northward-sloping alluvial either 1 x 1 or 1 x 2 m. and camp (Table 1). Twenty-nine sites were located in the project area and each was mapped and recorded in detail. manos. An archaeological study of face artifacts were observed. In only one instance were surface artifacts observed on a short-term milling site. Sites in assume that no subsurface deposit is present and this category (n= 14) vary considerably in terms so do not test that proposition. General location of the Keene Ranch sites. sites. Of the 14 nature and age of what was missed. levels were dug valley located in the northern Tehachapi in arbitrary 10-cm. All but one of the short-term milling sites were tested (the exception due to unfavorable slope and absence of soil accumula- tion). Presumably these sites are a result of standing of the archaeological record. important in dealing with this problem. This long-term milling sites recorded in Hart Flat ultimately will result in two unsatisfactory only one was not tested (due to its location). we will never of the number of bedrock milling features and know if we were correct. increments. and all soil from Mountains just south of Tehachapi Pass (Fig. these sites tend to contain larger. and 2) a mis. Long-term milling sites are defined as having a relatively large number of bedrock milling features (more and better developed than short- term sites) and/or subsurface cultural remains. 1). Recent archaeological work in the Tehachapi Generally. Data on the merit addition to the presence of bedrock mortars.280 JOURNAL OF CALIFORNIA AND GREAT BASIN ANTHROPOLOGY This presents a problem regarding the under. the of the "small site/no deposit" assumption are assemblages from these sites include pestles. nor will we know the the complexity of subsurface deposit. deeper mortars than do the short-term milling Fig. If we relatively intensive and extended use. in size. quantity and diversity of cultural remains to understanding and misinterpretation of the classify the sites as habitation loci or camps. test excavation units were placed Mountains in southern California serves as a test close to bedrock milling features or where sur- of this problem. Short-term milling sites (n=13) are those sites containing only bedrock milling features that were judged to have received minimal use and contain few milling features (usually one to four mortars and/or slicks). and a large quantity of flaked stone debitage. 1. projectile points. As a rule. In known archaeological record. Test units were Hart Flat. mesh. a small. the test units was passed through 1/8-in. bone awls.

2 2642 1 . eight (73%) visible indications (artifacts. NT" — 1011 3 -. RESULTS ified above). . 1 2619 22 Yes Yes 2 2622 19 . Yes 1 2615 9 -. — 1 1013 4 . Yes 1 2668 1 1 Long-Term Milling 997 5 . contain subsurface deposits. . Thus. four (33%) contained a subsurface absence of a subsurface deposit at any of the deposit and of the 11 long-term milling sites sites. 1 1012 1 . Test CA-KER. only four had without surface manifestations. NT" - 1004 10 . or nearly so. .) that contained subsurface deposits. levels of most test units. artifacts were routinely 23 sites without surface indications of subsurface absent. 1 1008 6 . from the upper one or two materials. Yes 1 1016 4 . Specifically. Yes 1 999 6 Yes Yes 2 1001 11 . Yes 1 2625 1 . Yes 1 1009 4 -. two were not tested (for reasons spec. Yes 1 2631 16 . 1 2624 1 . Each of 56% of all bedrock milling sites contained a these four was tested and three were found to subsurface deposit (Table 2). Of the remaining In the excavations. soil color. 2 1006 19 . ' plus 17 cupulcs. REPORTS 281 Table 1 ATTRIBUTES OF HART FLAT PREfflSTORIC SITES Site No . . Milling Surface Subsurface No. Features Materials Deposit Units Short-Term Milling 996 1 . became increasingly . . . 1 2634 8 Yes -. of the It was our position from the beginning of the 12 short-term milling sites without surface Hart Flat project that we would not assume the materials. a total of a subsurface deposit might be present. Yes 3 2651 12 Yes 1 Camps 1002 20 Yes Yes 7 1015 19 Yes Yes 11 • NT = not tested. . 1 998 1 . etc. Of the 27 milling sites. and 12 were found to subsurface cultural deposit. Yes 2 2614 6 . Yes 1 2616 7" Yes Yes 3 2618 13 . Yes 1 2632 1 .

It should be settlement and subsistence patterns.282 JOURNAL OF CALIFORNIA AND GREAT BASIN ANTHROPOLOGY Table 2 SUMMARY OF RESULTS' AT HART FLAT MILLING SITES With Surface Materials Without Surface Materials^ Totals With Subsurface Without Subsurface With Subsurface Without Subsurface Short-Term 0 1 4 7 12 Long-Term 3 0 8 2 13 Totals 3 1 12 9 25 " from Table 1. the interpretations based on those faulty quartz. and cant not only from a settlement/subsistence flaked stone implements also were found (see standpoint but also from a functional interpretive Parr 1991 for detailed descriptions). ical deposits in small milling sites. with obsidian being the doubtedly been missed. The so- noted that all the known sites in Hart Flat were called redundancy of small sites within a settle- discovered by the presence of highly-visible ment/subsistence pattern is in itself important. This pattern 1985). systems. jasper. view. quartzite. the presence of debitage (the result of one activity) at a milling she CONCLUSION (another activity) would imply a site function If the archaeological record were ever fully. hammers. "capped" at least some in proportions and quantities of types of data in of the sites. present were chert. To understand such a system. Glassow (1985) noted that small sites is believed to be the result of fairly recent often contain forms of data not found or ob- natural and cultural deposition processes. Glassow until sterile soil was encountered.. By using the The most common class of artifact discovered criterion of "small" to infer absence of a sub- was flaked stone debitage and the most abundant surface deposit. more complex sites. basalt. Sites not located in Our point is that testing is required to association with such features are unlikely to be determine the presence or absence of archaeolog- discovered. and then dwindled in the lower levels pects of it must be considered (e. making visual detection of artifacts small sites may provide significant insights into and/or midden difficult at best. Other lithic materials missing an important aspect of those sites. bedrock milling features. cores. In addition. Variations processes had. diversity heretofore overlooked. Debitage tended to be composed of data are. numerous. all as. ' two sites were not tested. Such scured in larger. themselves. tertiary flakes and shatter. the majority of the sites would likely be obsidian materials from such sites could help small. reflecting short-term activities that were place the sites in time and perhaps tie them in part of some complex settlement/subsistence (using sourcing data) with specific settlement system. known. We cannot afford to ignore these sites. many such deposits have un- material was chalcedony. in effect. . and archaeologists are second-most common. flawed.g. For example. A small number of The data contained in such sites are signifi- ground stone artifacts. and Thus.

at Hart Flat. Robert M. ty. Bakersfield. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 1991 Society for Califomia Archaeology Southern Parr. and an anonymous reviewer. Keene Ranch. Califomia. Yohe II. 1985 The Significance of Small Sites to Califor- . We appreciate 1991 Cultural Resource Testing and Evaluation the comments of Tim Gross. Michael A. Kem County. Clement Meighan. Joumal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 7(l):58-66. California Fall Data Sharing meeting. California State Universi- Glassow. Report on file at the Southern San Joaquin Valley Archaeological Infor- REFERENCES mation Center. Robert E. REPORTS 283 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS nia Archaeology.