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Land Use and Settlement Patterns in the Central and Southern Sierra Nevada: A Comparative Study
AdvisorMorgan, Christopher T.
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This thesis compares the pre-contact settlement patterns of the Miwok and the Mono in the central and southern Sierra Nevada. Both groups occupied similar environments and relied on the same staple subsistence foods but likely differed in population density, political and social structure, mobility, and territoriality. By analyzing the distribution of sites and bedrock milling features in relation to ecozones, each entailing different resources and ecological constraints, this thesis assessed the degree to which the Miwok and Mono practiced similar vs. divergent land use strategies. The results indicate that the Miwok likely used established locales above snowline in much the same manner as they did below: as residential bases for multi-family groups. The Mono, on the other hand, aggregated in multi-family residential settlements below snowline and limited occupation above snowline mainly to household-level residential occupations, travel, and logistical forays. These differences may be due to several factors, including the depth of time each group occupied their recorded ethnographic territory, population density, and different degrees of mobility and territoriality. This project contributes to our understanding of human adaptations to mountainous environments by illustrating that similarities in environment, subsistence, and technology are insufficient for predicting cross-cultural similarities in land use.