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award winning research designs

2021 – Erica J. Bradley

“Assessing the Relationship Between Pluvial Lake Levels and Paleoindian Land Use in Hawksy Walksy Valley, Oregon”

Few Paleoindian occupations in the Great Basin have absolute age determinations because most  are open-air, near-surface manifestations with poor preservation. This complication has led to a perception that the Paleoindian Period is a relatively stagnant cultural unit. Considering that Paleoindians experienced some of the most dramatic environmental changes in the human history of North America, the Pleistocene-to-Holocene transition was likely a dynamic cultural period and we should expect to see changes in land use and technology of corresponding magnitude. It may be possible to overcome the challenges of working with a predominantly surface record using a combination of established approaches: for example using projectile point types to date sites via seriation, using obsidian hydration to independently test the relative ages of sites, and comparing diachronic toolstone conveyance patterns. I will apply these methods to assemblages from Hawksy Walksy Valley, a small pluvial lake basin in the northwestern Great Basin.

2020 – No Award

2019 – Kristina Crawford, M.A., RPA

Explaining Provisioning and Landscape Use In the Orderly Anarchy of The Late Holocene Sacramento Valley, California”

This project investigates whether or not Native Californians in the upper Sacramento Valley at the end of the Late Period (1100 to 150 cal. BP ) solved the problem of provisioning increasingly circumscribed and growing populations with minutely-divided and decentralized sociopolitical organization by developing an interdependent but non-hierarchical economy focused on specialized production of surplus for trade. Faunal, wood charcoal and artifact analysis of the assemblages from two stratified rockshelters in northern Tehama County will be used to answer this question. This study continues the work of Dr. Bennyhoff as it examines culture change in the Late Period as it relates to economics of diet and trade and continues his culture chronology work by refining a local chronology. This project is important because it interrogates the idea that hunter-gatherer complexity exists only in situations of hierarchical centralized sociopolitical organization.

2018 – Brian Barbier, M.A.

“Assessing Early-Middle Period Interregional Exchange Between Central and Southern California”

This project contributes to Dr. Bennyhoff’s legacy by expanding our understanding of interregional exchange in California. I investigate whether the early-Middle Period was a unique time of increased interaction between central and southern California. This project will employ (1) comparative morphological analysis of Olivella beads from central and southern California, (2) stable isotope source analysis on a sample of beads, and (3) obsidian source and hydration analyses as an independent indicator of north-south trade at this time. Specifically, this study will address a significant and longstanding question: was there a robust exchange network that brought Chumash made beads north, thus explaining why Olivella Saucers are the predominant bead form in southern and central California during the early-Middle Period? Scholars, including Dr. Bennyhoff, have demonstrated that both regions used separate types of beads during the preceding and following periods, but the reason for this early-Middle Period synchrony of form is yet unexplained.

2017 – David C. Harvey

“Explaining Tubatulabal Territorial Establishment and Maintenance in the Far Southern Sierra Nevada”

This project investigates how the Tubatulabal established and maintained a territory in a diverse and productive environment along the ecotone between California and the Great Basin. It does so by reconstructing settlement behaviors in relation to expectations derived from human behavioral ecology. In order to maintain their territory, the Tubatulabal would have had to alter settlement behavior in response to competition from larger population density groups as demographic shifts occurred throughout the late Holocene. These changing behaviors must be evaluated in a well understood culture historical context. In a region where dating archaeological remains is difficult, a combination of obsidian hydration and radiocarbon dating will be used to assess hypothesized diachronic shifts in settlement patterns. The proposed research will clarify our understanding of territorial behavior from a theoretical standpoint while shedding light on the culture history and material record of an often overlooked area of California and the Great Basin.

2016 – Gregory R. Burns and Susan D. Talcott

“Understanding Changing Landscape Use and Cultural Change in Central Colusa County”

The 2013 UC Davis California Fieldschool excavated four sites along the valley-foothill transition in Colusa County in ethnographic Hill Patwin territory. With little federal land or development, this area has had minimal previous investigation. Based on current analysis of assemblages, and archaeometric analyses made possible through this award, we will develop a model of change in resource use and cultural pattern from the Middle Period to Ethnographic times. This will depend on improved dating using AMS and obsidian hydration, reliable sourcing of obsidian by XRF and INAA, and accurate identification of macrobotanical and fish remains. We will compare the results to models developed elsewhere in the Central Valley to determine the extent to which cultural and behavioral ecology models must be adjusted for the local chronology and conditions. This research will further the interests of Dr. James Bennyhoff by refining California cultural chronology and exploring the emergence of Patwin ethnogeography.

2015 – Allison Hill

“Obsidian Dating and Sourcing in the San Emigdio Hills, Kern County, California”

The purpose of this research project is to produce the first comprehensive obsidian hydration and sourcing analysis on a regional level for the Emigdiano Chumash, who comprised the eastern periphery of the Chumash traditional use area. This project will bolster the chronological data on Emigdiano culture history and provide insight into how social interactions changed through time in a critical borderland area. Importantly, the project will evaluate the integrity of portable X-Ray Fluorescence in identifying obsidian sources and provide the first ever analysis of lithic technology from a series of Chumash pictograph locales.

2013 – Carly S. Whelan

 “Prehistoric Mobility and Trade: An Analysis of Obsidian Source Distributions in Central California”

Though it appears that Bodie Hills and Casa Diablo obsidian was distributed in separate trade networks between approximately 3500 and 1100 cal B.P., it is not known how rigidly defined these trade networks were. It is also unclear how obsidian procurement patterns differed during the periods before and after this late Holocene peak in trading activity. I propose to answer these questions by dating sites from the Don Pedro reservoir collection and creating obsidian source profiles from these sites. I will use the profiles to determine whether trade was skewed toward particular obsidian sources and trading partners at the boundary between the exchange networks, and detect temporal changes in obsidian source distribution. The proposed research will help shed light on the culture history of a little studied region of the Sierra Nevada foothills and clarify the nature of trade relationships and obsidian acquisition patterns in the larger Central California region.

2012 – Devin L. Snyder

“Evaluating the Validity of the Chico Regional Culture Chronology: Radiocarbon and Obsidian Analysis at Three Late Period Village Sites”

Nearly 50 years ago, California State University, Chico initiated a long-term research program dedicated to establishing a regional chronology for Glenn and Butte counties. Unfortunately, since that time, the local chronological sequence has continued to rely on a limited number of radiocarbon dates from only three sites, including CA-BUT-233, CA-BUT-294, and CA-GLE- 105. In an attempt to update and evaluate the validity of a chronological sequence that is largely based on projectile point and olivella shell bead typologies, this project proposes to radiocarbon date intact stratigraphic features from three large previously excavated village sites, CA-BUT-1, CA-BUT-7, and CA-BUT-12, submit obsidian samples from similar proveniences for hydration and sourcing purposes, and compare the results of these dating methods to not only one another but also an existing chronology in need of further absolute dating support.

2011 – Kristina Gill

“Obsidian Exchange on the Santa Barbara Channel Islands: Correlating Obsidian Hydration Readings with Radiocarbon Dates From Well-Stratified Sites on Santa Cruz Island”

The refinement of obsidian hydration conversion rates for the Santa Barbara Channel region will be conducted, utilizing the excellent stratigraphic preservation found on the islands to correlate radiocarbon dates directly with obsidian rim hydration readings. The research proposed here also includes an investigation of the obsidian exchange network and how this changed through time.

2010 – Melanie Beasley

“Paleodietary Reconstruction of Spatial and Temporal Change in the Prehistoric San Francisco Bay Area: Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Analysis at the Ryan Mound (CA-ALA-329)”

For this research, I will investigate late Holocene dietary patterns in the San Francisco Bay Area using stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes of bone collagen and stable carbon isotopes of bone apatite. I will examine bone samples selected from human burials from the Ryan Mound (CA-ALA-329), which have been made available through San Jose State University, with full permission and support of the Muwekma Ohlone Indian Tribe. The three parts of this research project will contribute to the extensive research already completed by Alan Leventhal (1993) on the site and yield a more complete reconstruction of spatial and temporal change in the diets of the Ryan Mound population during its occupation along the southeastern shore of the San Francisco Bay.


2009 – John Schlagheck

“Obsidian and Radiocarbon Analysis of Material from Two Middle Holocene Sites on the North Central Coast of California”

The primary goal of this project is refine the cultural chronology of the North Central Coast with specific attention to the establishment of regional and long distance trade patterns and interaction spheres. More specifically, radiocarbon dating material recovered from intact stratigraphic features identified at CA-SCR-7 and CA-SCR-10 will be used in conjunction with obsidian sourcing to illuminate cultural characteristics established along the North Central Coast during the Middle Holocene. Obsidian sourcing data and radiocarbon dates generated during this research will be used to identify which obsidian sources were most dominant on the North Central Coast, determine if dominate obsidian sources changed over time, and provide information to facilitate future debates on trade patterns.

2008 – Terry Joslin

“Red Abalone (Haliotis rufescens) Middens along the Cambria Coastline: Defining Chronological Signatures of Specific Middle Holocene Adaptations”

The chronological refinement of collections from Middle Holocene red abalone midden deposits will be undertaken using standard and AMS radiocarbon dating combined with obsidian hydration and sourcing analysis to assign specific traits associated with these deposits. The research proposed here intends to define what specific temporal interval(s) the Cambria red abalone middens occupied and what time sensitive artifacts are associated with site occupations. These data will provide the basis for reconstructing settlement patterns and defining maritime adaptations of these unique sites along the northern coast of San Luis Obispo County, California.

2007 – Donna Gillette

“Contextualizing the Pecked Curvilinear Nucleated Art Tradition of Hopland Research and Extension Center”

Dissertation research will be centered at the Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) in Mendocino County, California, the location of three clusters of boulders that exhibit visible signs of use and are thought to represent fertility ritual. Known as PCNs (Pecked Curvilinear Nucleated elements), these markings (i.e., rock art) are a portion of a broader tradition of cultural markings that are found at more than 100 sites throughout the Coastal Ranges of California. Field research at the HREC will include representatives of the Hopland Pomo people, and, in part, will focus on placing the tradition in a temporal context utilizing two existing collections (over 2,000 unanalyzed artifacts at UC Davis), a provenienced surface collection (360 artifacts from the HREC), and artifacts resulting from current subsurface investigations near the boulders. Obsidian hydration testing and sourcing will facilitate the study.


2006 – Elizabeth Sutton

“Temporal and Spatial Variability of Digging Stick Weights from the Santa Barbara Channel Region”

Investigations of many archaeological sites in the Santa Barbara Channel region have recovered a large number of artifacts known as digging stick weights. This study will involve a systematic analysis of these tools to determine whether there are typological differences associated with temporal or spatial parameters, or with different soil types that can be associated with edible, underground resources. Similar kinds of differences will be analyzed for weights recovered from mortuary and residential contexts. At least 175 digging stick weights from the study area are known to be housed in the collections of at least four important institutions (UCSB, UCLA, UCB, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History).

2005 – Allika Ruby

“Timing of the Meganos Intrusion into the Eastern Bay Region of California: Evidence from CA-ALA-413”

An existing archaeological collection from ALA–413, the Santa Rita Village site, will be examined to investigate the timing of the Meganos Intrusion into the eastern Bay Region of central California. Chronological refinement of the collection will be undertaken through radiocarbon dating and obsidian hydration and sourcing analysis to assign specific traits to the Meganos culture. These data can then be used to reconstruct settlement patterns, long distance trade networks, and regional conflict.


2004 – Deanna Grimstead and Brandon Patterson

“Proposed Investigations in the Cache Creek Natural Area, Colusa and Lake Counties, California”

Work to support two thesis projects would establish the age of a group of prehistoric sites and components in the Cache Creek drainage. Once established, the associated lithic and faunal assemblages will be evaluated. Will attempt to understand trade relationships and projectile point maintenance.


2003 – Shannon Tushingham

“Examining Existing Frameworks that Model Change in the North California Coast”

Attempt to refine the regional chronology of the northwest coast by observing trends in time sensitive markers, focusing on coastal versus interior occupation. Intends to sample sites in a variety of environmental contexts: Smith River, Pacific coast, Lakes Earl and Talawa estuaries, and mountainous uplands of interior. Proposed to present data at SCA meeting.

2002 – Alexander DeGeorgy

“Identifying Paleo-Archaic Assemblages within the Cache Creek Primitive Area, Lake County, California”

Identifying Paleo–Indian and Lower Archaic sites within the Cache Creek Primitive Area through implementation of principles of geomorphology for Master’s thesis. Collection of obsidian from landforms to understand temporal position of sites and establish landscape evolution chronology for region.

2001 – Kathleen Hull

“Native Cultural Response to Demographic Collapse at Euroamerican Contact in Yosemite Valley”

Study of short– and long–term cultural consequences of population decline at Euroamerican contact in Yosemite Valley using archaeological, ethnohistoric, and ethnographic data. Identifying pre– and post–contact sites through radiocarbon and obsidian hydration analyses; characterize obsidian geochemical makeup to contrast material acquisition in pre– and post–contact periods.

2000 – Torbin Rick

“Refining the Chronology Single-Piece Circular and J-Shaped Fishhooks of Coastal California”

Obtained three AMS radiocarbon dates on shell fishhooks from the Channel Islands of southern California as part of a larger study to date shell fishhooks throughout California coast. Findings published in Radiocarbon, Volume 43, No. 1, 2001 (pp. 83–86), with acknowledgement of financial support from SCA Bennyhoff fund; larger study submitted for review to Journal of Archaeological Science; paper given at SCA. Obtained AMA date of 560 cal. BP on single–piece fishhook originally dated by association to 5500 BP; earliest dates for these artifact forms are thought to be 3000 cal BP based on additional AMS dates. Emphasized the uses of AMS dating to refine artifact, site, and regional chronologies.

1999 – Sharon McFarland

“Examination of Long Distance and Local Trade Obsidian Exchange Systems in San Diego County”

Temporal and geographical boundaries and change in long distance and local obsidian exchange systems in San Diego County. Obsidian from Archaic sites form Coso (eastern California); obsidian from Late Prehistoric sites usually Obsidian Butte in Imperial Valley. Thesis finished and defended at SDSU. Fifty–two specimens analyzed through fund (total of 941 for thesis). Relationship between source and region was statistically significant (north–south inter–group exchange routes replaced by east–west intra–group trade), but not mutually exclusive; a third important source in the region was identified, from near San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico. A hydration rate for the Obsidian Butte source was proposed (t=47microns 2) using arrow points (no dart points available) in conjunction with radiocarbon dates and the Coso hydration rate.


1998 – Eric Wohlgemuth

“AMS Dating of CA-SOL-315 Feature”

Data for dissertation on the evolution of intensive plant use in native Central California – resolve discontinuities in radiocarbon and hydration for two Solano County sites. No write up of findings, but three presentations given: Sacramento Archaeological Society; SCA Annual meeting;’ SCA Northern Data Sharing meeting. Funds used for one of several AMS dates from rock features to date a potentially early cemetery at SOL–315 (Windmiller or Early Berkeley). Middle Period dates were returned. Radiocarbon dates on human bone from the cemetery indicated they were 4000–4500 years old. Additional radiocarbon and hydration analysis form nearby site SOL–391 indicated a 4800–3400 BP occupation associated with passive acorn leaching pits dug in an area with a high seasonal water table.

1997 – Rene Vellanoweth

“AMS Radiocarbon Dating of an Olivella Rectangle Bead from Central Oregon”

AMS date of Olivella Grooved Rectangle bead from Fort Rock Valley, Oregon. Part of a larger study of the chronometric refinement of OGR beads and other shell artifacts throughout western North America. Paper to be submitted to Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology . In general OGR beads from southern California date to about 5000 CYBP, while those in the Great Basin tend to be about 500 to 2,000 years younger (based on associated charcoal dates). The AMS date of a bead associated with 4000 BP radiocarbon dates from structural floors was about 5000 cal BP, indicating that the temporal lag between desert and coast may not be real.

1996 – Nelson Siefkin

“Shell Bead Manufacture and Chronology in the Tulare Lake Basin, California”

Excavations at KIN–66/H, a large, natural mound on the shore of Tulare Lake dating to the Middle and Late prehistoric/historic periods, revealed a burial with over 5,000 associated Olivella and Haliotis beads. He hypothesizes that the complete split–punched beads represent raw material for bead blanks as opposed to finished beads. Proposed to examine bead detritus fromKin–66/H, and reevaluate temporal placement of split–punched beads of Tulare Lake Basin. Ran radiocarbon dates on Anodonta mussel (no correction factors for freshwater mussel from San Juaquin Valley). Two dated to the Middle Period, two in the Middle/Late Transition, and one in the Late Period; all but one of the Middle Period dates agreed with associated artifacts. It was also concluded that split punched beads did not serve solely as raw materials but were opportunistically utilized.Kristina Crawford, M.A., RPA




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