Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Central Desert Studies : Archaeological Survey and Excavation in Baja California, Mexico Public Deposited

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  • This dissertation serves as a contribution to the study of the prehistory of the Central Desert region of Baja California, Mexico. Between 2007 and 2011, a trans-peninsular archaeological survey and excavation program―the Central Desert Early Prehistory Project (CDEPP)―was completed for a portion of the Baja California peninsula extending from the Gulf of California to the Pacific Coast. The goal of the CDEPP was designed to construct a reliable cultural-historical model for the Central Desert. Methods used to build the model included a trans-peninsular pedestrian survey, sub-surface excavation at select locations, locating and documenting the distribution of surficial cultural deposits, and where possible, associating these findings to absolute or relative age estimates. Soil geomorphology methods were applied to the archaeological data to further clarify the depositional context of cultural deposits. Findings from the CDEPP suggest past foragers, through much of prehistory, consistently followed a pattern defined by a high residential mobility consisting of one to two nuclear families. Periodically, these small foraging groups would aggregate in centralized locations and shift to a more logistical or semi-sedentary residential pattern―a mobile ranchería residential strategy. Artifact analysis of the CDEPP dataset supports this interpretation. Forager technological organization throughout the Central Desert was dominated by patterns of a generalized toolkit design supplemented with specialized, less portable traits. That early foragers, notably late Holocene populations, used both technological strategies is revealing of a land use pattern conditioned to fluctuating resources due to regional environmental and climatic shifts. Varying use of highly mobile and logistical residential patterns is evident in the distribution and types of archaeological materials, diversity of artifact assemblages, and the technological organization used at specific locations. The cultural-historical model established for the Central Desert reveals past forager land use and technological organization were diachronically and synchronically consistent, and likely established during the late Pleistocene-early Holocene transition.
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