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«By Celeste Nicole Henrickson A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in ...»

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The archaeology of Cueva Santa Rita: A late Holocene rockshelter in the Sierra de la

Giganta of Baja California Sur, Mexico.


Celeste Nicole Henrickson

A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the

requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy



in the

Graduate Division

of the

University of California, Berkeley

Committee in Charge:

Professor Steven M. Shackley, Chair

Professor Margaret Conkey

Professor Ronald Gronsky Fall 2013 Abstract The archaeology of Cueva Santa Rita: A late Holocene rockshelter in the Sierra de la Giganta of Baja California Sur, Mexico By Celeste Nicole Henrickson Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology University of California, Berkeley Professor Steven M. Shackley, Chair This dissertation is a contribution to the scientific study of prehistory in Baja California Sur, Mexico. In 2008, test excavations at Cueva Santa Rita resulted in the recovery of a rich and diverse artifact assemblage. The large, dry rockshelter is located in the southern Sierra de la Giganta of Baja California Sur, Mexico. The shelter formed in the volcanic breccias of the Comondú Group, part of a larger volcanic arc and forearc basin formed during the Oligocene to Middle Miocene. Drawing from geoarchaeological methods and ethnohistoric accounts, I combine analysis of the both the cultural and non-cultural to discuss regional prehistory. Artifact analysis includes an examination of Olivella shell bead and textiles recovered during excavations. The findings of the project indicate that the site has been occupied for at least the late Holocene.

1     To my family i     Acknowledgements So many people joined me at various points on my journey through the dissertation process. A special thank you to Steven Shackley. I have wonderful memories of our time together in the field and at Berkeley. The obsidian field schools were an absolute blast! Pun intended. I just can’t imagine having any other advisor and you have become a wonderful friend. Forgive me in advance if I hound you to commit to more fieldwork in the peninsula.

I would also like to thank my colleague and friend Loren Davis. Your guidance in the field and in the laboratory was crucial. Your keen intellect, generosity, strength, positive nature, and natural talent for archaeology inspires me everyday. I am so glad you invited me to help you with your dissertation project in Baja California over 15 years ago. It changed my life. I look forward to our adventures in Baja California.

Shane Macfarlan was an invaluable help with statistics and general guidance. I want to express my deepest thanks for your ability to be a husband, colleague, friend, instructor, father, counselor, and motivator-all at the same time. I am so glad we decided many years ago to always do fieldwork together. Now there are just more of us to bring along.

Thank you also to my wonderful Uncle Robert Henrickson. Almost all of the graphics in this dissertation would not have been produced without your help. I have learned so much from you. Your willingness to help at any hour comes straight from your beautiful heart.

I wish to especially thank my father, Gerald Henrickson. Without your help, I would have most definitely been stranded in extremely remote places more than once.

You kept our field camps fixed and running smooth. You fixed everything for everyone, from tents to cars to flashlights. And most importantly, you spent years watching your grandchildren so that I could write this dissertation. Thank you for all the sleep you lost.

All the excavations and survey work was accomplished by volunteers, many of them experts in the field of archaeology. Thank you Shane Macfarlan, Loren Davis, Pablo Romero, David Rhode, Dante Knapp, Cara Monroe, Justin Bach (see-u-dhad!), Robert Jackson (our captain), Barbara Jackson (my beautiful Mexican Mom), Scott Macfarlan, Tadd Macfarlan, Gerald Henrickson (Dad), Nilo Bill, and Collin Macfarlan (age:-4 months and carried in my belly). These wonderful people worked every day despite the intense heat, irritating bugs, scorpions, lack of water, tropical storms, stomach viruses, heat rashes, exposure to the poisonous herba de flecha and stinging mesquite grubs. I am so thankful you all love archaeology enough to endure. Maybe next time we will go in December?

A special thank you to Pablo Romero and his family. Pablo, we were so fortunate to spend so much time at such a beautiful place and have your guidance. I am forever indebted. The beautiful culture and nature of the rancho communities in the Sierra de la Giganta are unforgettable. Thank you all for the trust and generosity you showed us.

Thanks also to the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) for allowing me to research and promote the prehistory in the state of Southern Baja California. A very warm thank you to my colleague and friend, archaeologist Carlos Mandujano Alvarez at INAH. You have been generous with your time and knowledge, patient, and extremely encouraging. I am very excited for our future work together in the Sierra de la Giganta.

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Chapter 1: Introduction This dissertation is a contribution to the scientific study of ancient history in Baja California Sur, Mexico. In Baja California, cultural dynamics at multiple spatial scales are poorly understood. For example, the lack of deeply stratified, multi-component sites makes the fine-grained analysis of artifact variations within and between sites difficult and often unfeasible. Additionally, even at well-preserved rockshelter sites that do have sufficient sediment accumulation, the stratigraphy is often shallow and “severely mixed” (Hyland 1997:201). This project focuses on cultural contact at a variety of scales. At the broadest level, this research set out to investigate the nature and degree of contact between indigenous groups within the peninsula (Chapter 2).

However, such an examination begins at the site level and my intent was to construct a research design and analytical methodologies that would highlight the production of crafts at the local level. This is why the study of Olivella shell beads (Chapter 4) and textile technologies (Chapter 5) at Cueva Santa Rita have been paired with a critical examination of regional cultural traits. Additionally, given that a clear understanding of rockshelter sediments was likely to be elusive, yet critical for inter- and intrasite correlation, field study of sediments was extensive and is presented here (Chapter 3).

In 2008, test excavations in the permanently dry conditions within Cueva Santa Rita resulted in the recovery a rich and diverse assemblage. There are few archaeological sites in the North American continent that have the capability to elucidate the cultural repertoire of everyday hunter-gatherer life without relying on the realms of stone tool or pottery analyses. It is an odd circumstance that only in cases of outstanding preservation do archaeologists find such detail of the ordinary, where the commonplace becomes a source of giddy excitement. Drawing from geoarchaeological methods and ethnohistoric accounts, I combine analysis of both the cultural and noncultural to discuss the prehistory at the rockshelter, Cueva Santa Rita.

Conceptual Issues Baja California Ancient History The concept of peninsular isolation is deeply rooted in the study of Baja California prehistory. The cultural geography of the Baja California peninsula is often described using analogies like “cul-de-sac” (Massey 1966), “population trap” (Tuohy 1978), or “refuge” (Gonzalez-Jose et al. 2003). These phrases imply a cultural core rooted near the northern base of the peninsula and an increasingly marginalized or isolated periphery moving toward the southern tip. This imagery can influence our interpretations of the past (Horning 2007) and lead to simplified concepts of peninsular history, including the manner with which peninsular geography constrains emigration and the consequent flow of peoples into and within the region. Indeed, the geographic ruggedness of Baja California, which hampers access to many areas today, has facilitated its characterization as culturally marginal in the past and within modern research frameworks of North America (e.g., Aschmann 1967; Dalton 2005; GonzalezJose et al. 2003; Massey 1966; Rogers 1945). Much of the discussion about marginality was reinforced by geographic patterns of cultural traits in the south of the peninsula, for example, the retention of atlatls (Laylander 2007), distinctive cave burials (Massey 1955), and notable absence of indigenous pottery (Massey 1966). Imagery of Baja California Sur cultural isolation is also exacerbated by missionary accounts expressing considerable isolation, fear, and remoteness living so far from mainland Mexico and Europe (e.g., Baegert 1952). A superficial reading of these accounts could allow one to   1     conflate missionary experiences of isolation with historic cultural relationships between indigenous groups. It is from these accounts that Massey (1949) established the peninsular tribal and linguistic groupings that characterize Baja California prehistory and began to discuss the linguistic stratification of the peninsula as a representation of a socially and geographically forced marginalization of groups in the south.

The traditional model of Baja California prehistory is known as the “layer cake” model of prehistory and is based on linguistic, ethnological, and archaeological evidence. It has been developed and refined since the late 1930s (Kirchoff 1942; Kowta 1984; Massey 1961,1966; Rogers 1939, 1945; Tuohy 1976). The model proposes a temporal series of at least 3 waves of migration of peoples into the peninsula, where each successive migration penetrates less distance into the peninsula. In other words, the uppermost cultural layer is the most recent migration (California Yuman) and the lowermost layers (Pericú) are the earliest. Important assumptions in the model include the intra-group homogeneity and inter-group heterogeneity, increasing isolation to the south, and limited migration at the northern base. There are some problems with this model including the focus on the macroscale, the homogeneity of groups, and unidirectional movement from the north to the south (Laylander 2012; Panich and Porcayo 2012). Much archaeological research along the peninsula has focused on understanding these different groups relative to the far southwest and upper California.

Archaeologists rarely employ the layer cake model when considering peninsular prehistory. The layer cake model is a useful conceptual tool that simplifies population movement into the peninsula and sets up a conceptual space to test hypotheses. As Don Laylander (2012) states: “Useful as such a model may be as a first approximation, the real stories of the past are almost certainly going to be much more complex, more multidimensional, more regionally variegated, and more interesting.” Significantly, much of the intellectual discussion is rooted in the complex nature of the relationship between human lifeways and a peninsular landscape. A peninsula is a unique landform in that it is surrounded on three sides by water. It is part island and part continent. As Fitzpatrick et al. (2008) have emphasized in island studies, it is important to combine the archaeological record with other lines of evidence to explore the complex history of both isolation and interaction and how they might effect change on societies.

Southern Peninsula Early Explorers and Ethnohistories Group Relations at Contact From north to south along the southern peninsula, the linguistic groups identified by missionaries and primarily discussed here are the Cochimí, Guaycura, and Pericú (Figure 1). It is likely that, at least for the latest Holocene, the archaeological record is associated with these linguistic groups (Hyland 1997: 73). To date, archaeological sites and historic accounts indicate these groups were small-scale, mobile foragers who existed within diverse ecosystems traversing extreme gradients from coast to coast (Aschmann 1967; Hugo and Exequiel 2007; Hyland 1997; Ritter 2006). At the time of contact, Pericú territory included the peninsula’s southern cape, as well as the four islands of Espíritu Santo, La Partida, San José, and Cerralvo. Directly to the north of the tropical cape are the Guaycura who inhabited the southern Sierra de la Giganta and Magdalena coastal plain. To the north of the Guaycura are the Cochimian groups.

Additionally, the Seri are sometimes discussed here, a group located beyond the peninsula on the west coast of mainland Mexico, who refer to themselves today as the Comcáac (Bowen 2000). Kroeber (1931:49) was the first to suggest that the Seri migrated   2     from Baja California at some point in the past, an idea supported by statistical analyses (Chapter 2) and other studies of cultural traits (Bowen 1973, 1976:101; Tuohy 1979).

Oral histories (Bowen 1976, 2000) and archaeological research (Bowen 1976; Foster 1984) suggest the Seri/Comáac had cultural contact during the historic period with peoples from the Baja California Peninsula.

Figure 1. Distribution of southern Baja California languages (Massey 1949) and landscape features.

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