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The Marmes Rockshelter archaeological site in southeastern Washington state contains a > 11 kyr stratigraphic record that was excavated in the 1960s but only recently analyzed in detail. We present the results of physical, chemical, and isotopic analyses of archived Marmes sediments from rockshelter, hillslope, and floodplain locations. Multiple lines of evidence including éboulis production, soil chemistry, and δ13C and δ18O signatures in soil organic matter and calcium carbonate suggest that relatively cool, moist conditions 10,600 to 9700 14C yr BP were followed by relatively warm and dry conditions as early as 9000 14C yr BP. Warm and dry conditions extended to the late Holocene, followed by a return to cooler and moister climate. The limited range of δ13C and δ18O values in Marmes paleosols suggests that the magnitude of moisture and temperature shifts was locally buffered in the lower Snake River Canyon but adequate to generate significant changes in sedimentation and soil formation, possibly due to nonlinear geological and pedological processes. These buffered canyon environments were well suited for establishing residential bases associated with foraging and logistical collecting strategies and may have minimized the influence of climate changes in food resource abundance.
Sedimentological, faunal, and archaeological investigations at the Sunshine Locality, Long Valley, Nevada reveal a history of human adaptation and environmental change at the last glacial–interglacial transition in North America's north-central Great Basin. The locality contains a suite of lacustrine, alluvial, and eolian deposits associated with fluvially reworked faunal remains and Paleoindian artifacts. Radiocarbon-dated stratigraphy indicates a history of receding pluvial lake levels followed by alluvial downcutting and subsequent valley filling with marsh-like conditions at the end of the Pleistocene. A period of alluvial deposition and shallow water tables (9,800 to 11,000 14C yr B.P.) correlates to the Younger Dryas. Subsequent drier conditions and reduced surface runoff mark the early Holocene; sand dunes replace wetlands by 8,000 14C yr B.P. The stratigraphy at Sunshine is similar to sites located 400 km south and supports regional climatic synchroneity in the central and southern Great Basin during the terminal Pleistocene/early Holocene. Given regional climate change and recurrent geomorphic settings comparable to Sunshine, we believe that there is a high potential for buried Paleoindian features in primary association with extinct fauna elsewhere in the region yet to be discovered due to limited stratigraphic exposure and consequent low visibility.
Previous studies of live-collected pre-weapons testing mollusk shells in the northern Gulf of California have demonstrated that the local radiocarbon reservoir effect (ΔR) is large and highly variable. To test the validity of this observation for paired charcoal and shell samples from archaeological contexts, we dated samples from four shell midden locations and six midden layers from the eastern shoreline of the Gulf of California near Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico. Dated charcoal samples were small twigs or brushy plants used to cook shellfish and the shells dated within each midden showed signs of burning. Ages range from approximately 5700 to 1900 cal BP. The offset between the modeled marine 14C age for calibrated ages of the middens and measured shell 14C age (ΔR) averaged 425 yr with a standard deviation of 115 yr.
Five recent radiocarbon assays on wood charcoal within archaeological sites from the Puerto Peñasco area, Sonora, Mexico indicate use of the marine resources of the northern Gulf of California area during the Middle Archaic through the Late Archaic periods, ca. 3800 B.C.–A.D. 100. The archaeological shell middens of the region are generally thought of as remains associated with Ceramic period Hohokam marine shell collecting forays with there being little consideration given to the likelihood of an Archaic period component being present. The importance of these age estimates is that they are derived from carbonized botanical remains rather than shell. Because of considerable variability in the carbon reservoir effect, age estimates derived from marine shell from the northern Gulf of California have limited reliability. The seasonality of collection is also considered through a preliminary study of stable oxygen isotope ratios in two shell samples. The results suggests that these shellfish were collected in the late fall, winter, and perhaps very early spring.
Geoarchaeological study on the southern piedmont of Sleeping Ute Mountain in southwestern Colorado indicates the presence of discontinuous ephemeral streams that were the foci of episodic Puebloan occupation between A.D. 600s and 1280. Characterized by arroyos, discontinuous ephemeral streams contain alternating aggrading and degrading reaches and are well suited for ak chin floodwater agriculture. Episodic Puebloan abandonment of the southern piedmont correlates with periods of drought but does not appear to be linked to stream entrenchment. We question a priori assumptions of droughts correlated to stream entrenchment and urge caution in the use of drought-arroyo models for settlement shifts in alluvial flood plains without supporting stratigraphic or geomorphic evidence.
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