Habitat Distribution, Settlement Systems, and Territorial Maintenance in the Southern Sierra Nevada, California
AuthorHarvey, David Christopher
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This dissertation evaluates the ecology of low population density forager territoriality through the lens of ideal free and despotic distribution models. It does so by asking how the Tubatulabal were able to maintain a territory in the far southern Sierra Nevada while dramatic social, technological, and economic shifts occurred throughout the region over the last 1500 to 2000 years. Their low population density and presumed long-term emplacement in the far southern Sierra Nevada provides a unique opportunity to assess how differential habitat use may change through time and contribute to territorial behavior. I hypothesize that an early ideal free pattern during the period of territorial formation should be replaced by a later ideal despotic pattern initiated as a means of territorial maintenance. Lacking competition, a colonizing low population density group should conform to an ideal free distribution. However, when potentially competitive populations emplace in adjacent territories, a free strategy would be disadvantageous to a group with lower population density and simpler sociopolitical organization, such as the Tubatulabal. In order to allay these disadvantages, the Tubatulabal would have had to alter their settlement and land use behaviors. Settlement and land use patterns are reconstructed relative to multiple habitat suitability models approximating the distribution of critical subsistence resources through time in order to evaluate these hypotheses. The results indicate that a shift in settlement and land use did occur in the Kern River watershed at some point after 1500 Cal BP. However, the shifts documented do not support the original hypotheses guiding this project. Settlement and land use reconstructions relative to habitat suitability indicates that the early occupants of the Kern River watershed more reflect a generalized random process rather than a targeted strategy that disproportionately focused on higher suitability habitats in the territory. This apparently general pattern is eventually replaced by settlement and land use patterns that disproportionately targeted moderate-to-low suitability habitats within a more constricted portion of the territory. The results superficially support a Late Prehistoric despotic settlement and land use strategy. However, whether or not these patterns truly reflect despotism as traditionally considered ecologically or anthropologically, or just mimic a despotic pattern remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the results indicate that the Tubatulabal employed a unique settlement and land use pattern that increasingly focused on intensively occupying and using moderate-to-low suitability habitats in the core of their territory through time. This unique form of territorial behavior, while focusing on suboptimal settlement locations, allowed the Tubatulabal to reduce the likelihood of competitive interactions while simultaneously mitigating the risks associated with a suboptimal strategy by retaining access to two staple resource bases, acorn and pinyon pine nut.