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Earliest Evidence for Geophyte Use in North America: 11,500-Year-Old Archaeobotanical Remains from California's Santarosae Island

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 May 2021

Kristina M. Gill*
Affiliation:
Museum of Natural and Cultural History, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA
Todd J. Braje
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182, USA
Kevin Smith
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Jon M. Erlandson
Affiliation:
Museum of Natural and Cultural History, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA
*Corresponding
(kgill@uoregon.edu, corresponding author)

Abstract

There is growing evidence for human use of geophytes long before the advent of agriculture. Rich in carbohydrates, geophytes were important in many coastal areas where protein-rich marine foods are abundant. On California's Channel Islands, scholars have long questioned how maritime peoples sustained themselves for millennia with limited plant resources. Recent research demonstrates that geophytes were heavily used on the islands for 10,000 years, and here we describe geophyte and other archaeobotanical remains from an approximately 11,500-year-old site on Santa Rosa Island. Currently the earliest evidence for geophyte consumption in North America, our data extend geophyte use on the Channel Islands by roughly 1,500 years and document a diverse and balanced economy for early Paleocoastal peoples. Experimental return rates for a key island geophyte support archaeological evidence that the corms of blue dicks (Dipterostemon capitatus) were a high-ranked staple resource throughout the Holocene.

Hay cada vez más evidencia del uso humano de geófitos mucho antes de la llegada de la agricultura. Al ser ricos en carbohidratos, los geófitos fueron importantes en muchas áreas costeras donde eran abundantes los productos marinos ricos en proteínas. En las Islas del Canal de California, vistas tradicionalmente como pobres en flora, los investigadores se han preguntado durante mucho tiempo cómo las poblaciones marítimas subsistieron durante milenios con recursos vegetales limitados. Las investigaciones recientes demuestran que los geófitos fueron usados de manera intensiva en las islas durante 10,000 años y en este artículo describimos los geófitos y otros restos arqueobotánicos de un sitio de ~11,500 años de antigüedad en la Isla Santa Rosa. Al ser actualmente la evidencia más temprana de consumo de geófitos en Norte América, nuestros datos extienden el uso de geófitos en las Islas del Canal al menos ~1500 años y documentan una economía diversa y balanceada en los grupos Paleocosteros tempranos. Presentamos también tasas experimentales de retorno de un geófito clave de las Islas que sustenta la evidencia arqueológica de que los bulbos de las covenas (Dipterostemon capitatus) fueron un recurso de subsistencia altamente valioso a lo largo del Holoceno.

Type
Report
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for American Archaeology

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Earliest Evidence for Geophyte Use in North America: 11,500-Year-Old Archaeobotanical Remains from California's Santarosae Island
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