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Early Settlement in Marginal Habitats on Santa Rosa Island, California
AdvisorJazwa, Christopher S.
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At low population density with abundant resource availability, the factors influencing human settlement patterns may differ from those that are important when per capita resources are more limited. For this reason, ecological models that may be supported by archaeological data for the majority of human occupation of an area may need modification or an alternative model for specific contexts of low population. This is the case on California’s Northern Channel Islands (NCI), the location of consistent human occupation since 13,000 years ago and permanent settlement since at least 8,000 years ago. The radiocarbon record from Santa Rosa Island, the second-largest of these islands, indicates that while settlement was largely influenced by the abundance of subsistence resources, including access to shellfish, fish, and water, this may not have been the case early in time, when population densities were low. In particular, I develop a methodology geared toward assessing population densities and the chronology of occupation on the leeward south side of Santa Rosa Island, between Johnson’s Lee and Ford Point. In this thesis, I note deviations from the predictions of previous Ideal Free Distribution (IFD) models used on the NCI for low population density, and develop an alternative satisficing model for that context. It incorporates the following data sets within the context of broader radiocarbon and faunal records established for settlement of Santa Rosa Island: (1) radiocarbon dates associated with occupation on the south side of the island; and (2) the faunal record at sites excavated from relatively low-ranked habitats on the island. The earliest available evidence for settlement of the south coast of the island dates to the beginning of the Early Period (7450 cal BP), with settlement in the region expanding to more sites over time. These dates appear to be anomalously early, with initial dates for settlement of the south predating many locations ranked higher in previous ecological models. This indicates that at low population densities when most or all habitats contained sufficient resources to comfortably support the inhabitants, settlement may not have been focused on areas with the most abundant resources. Consistent with the standard predictions of the IFD, however, settlement along the low-ranked south coast grows more slowly than at higher-ranked locations elsewhere on the island. This indicates that after this initial phase of occupation as human populations on Santa Rosa Island increased, settlement patterns no longer fit this satisficing model, but rather the IFD, as has been shown in previous studies. At the regional level, this project clarifies perspectives on large-scale patterns of settlement and mobility and human responses to major climatic shifts. It will also give insight for land-use adaptations in contexts globally in which low population densities are low and settlement appears not to follow expectations based on maximizing resource return.