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California State University Northridge (CSUN) 2019

Shell middens in the Mojave Desert : archaeological investigations in the east Cronese Basin

Fitzgerald, Robert

Titre : Shell middens in the Mojave Desert : archaeological investigations in the east Cronese Basin

Auteur : Fitzgerald, Robert

Université de soutenance : California State University Northridge (CSUN)

Grade : Master of Arts in Anthropology, Public Archaeology 2019

During the Holocene, the Mojave Desert was an arid environment with broadly distributed resources and the various groups living in the region practiced a highly mobile existence, choosing camp and settlement locations based on the availability of streams and recharging springs. Yet, in the Cronese Basin in the Central Mojave Desert, there are numerous archaeological sites that contain remnants from a lacustrine environment, including shellfish middens and fish bones. Additionally, this basin is located within 10 miles of one prehistoric trade route, the Mohave Road, and one historic trade route, the Old Spanish Trail. The Cronese Basin is an understudied region in California and Great Basin archaeology and expanding research in this area by investigating the subsistence practices of sites within its geographic context will help provide a better understanding of the people who utilized this area in the past. In the summer of 2017, Dr. Des Lauriers and I conducted an archaeological field school in the Eastern Cronese Basin with thirteen students to survey the prehistoric lakeshore of the basin and to record and test the sites that we encountered. For the purposes of this thesis, I focus on data recovered from one site, field designation CFS2017D. Data collection consisted of five radial surface collections and one 2m x 1m excavation unit placed over a shell midden feature. A basic analysis of the faunal assemblage from the radial surface collections and excavation unit show the diet of the people who created this site was varied, consisting of freshwater shellfish, fish, aquatic and terrestrial reptiles, small and large mammals, and a variety of birds. An analysis of the growth metrics of the shellfish remains suggest that the lakestand in which they grew lasted for at least four years, meaning that the people in this area would have had access to a freshwater lake for at least that length of time. In an otherwise arid landscape where water is a determining factor for survival, this would have been an attractive resource for desert peoples. The basin’s proximity to two known trade routes further suggests that the Cronese Basin could have been part of these trade routes when the lake and its associated resources were present. Description :


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