M.A. Theses: Larry A. Carbone, 1984

Environmental Change and Cultural Transition in the early Prehistory of South - Coastal California

It has been postulated that climatic changes have directly influenced cultural patterns in the early prehistory of some areas of North America. However, previous research efforts have yielded little empirical evidence to support or refute this premise. In addition, the problem of explaining cultural change has been compounded by an underestimation of the difficulty in determining the causes.

In order to investigate the likelihood that a distinct change in the cultural patterns of an early south-coastal California population was climatically induced, paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental data were synthesized and correlated with evidence from the archaeological record. The research focused upon determining the magnitude of climatic and environmental transformation that occurred in a relatively limited geographical region and temporal duration. This entailed examining the available proxy data (pollen remains, lake and marine sediments, tree rings and tree line elevation, faunal distributions and remains, isotopic fluctuations, etc.) that can be used to delineate climatic change. Also, archaeological evidence pertaining to subsistence strategies, technology, settlement patterns and data relating to social organization was analyzed and interpreted. These data were critically evaluated in order to determine if any degree of co-variation exists between patterns of climatic and cultural change.

Evaluation of this evidence indicates that beginning approximately 7,500 years ago the Paleo-Indian San Dieguito population was subjected to a significant environmental change, and in response a systemic readaptation toward archaic La Jolla patterns is suggested.