Understanding the archaeology of any region begins with a thorough knowledge of its natural environment. The distribution of physical and biological resources across a landscape plays an important role in determining where, why, and how people live. Among prehistoric hunter-gatherers in particular, the diversity, distribution, and density of various resources can provide important clues to the location and economic basis of various settlements. Many aspects of California’s coastal landscape are extremely dynamic, however, and modern environments should be extrapolated back in time cautiously. As we shall see, understanding the early cultures of the California coast involves the reconstruction of the ancient landscapes, or paleogeography, to which these hunter-gatherers adapted. In this chapter, I provide a brief overview of the natural environment of the California coast, a more detailed synopsis of the modern geography of the Santa Barbara Channel area, and a summary of information available on early Holocene environmental conditions along the Santa Barbara coast. These discussions serve as a prelude to the site descriptions and paleogeographic reconstructions presented in subsequent chapters.
KeywordsCoastal Plain Point Conception California Coast Arboreal Pollen Marine Terrace
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