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By L. Mark Raab

San Clemente Island serves as a microcosm of California maritime archaeology from prehistoric via old instances. The authors use findings from approximately twenty years of study at the island to give a cultural background that defies many past assumptions in regards to the coastal prehistory of the Pacific Northwest.

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Unfortunately, these prescient suggestions were never able to rise above informed speculation, since radiocarbon dating became widespread in California coastal archaeology only in the 1970s, and routinely employed only during the last two decades of the century. Indeed, not until the closing decades of the twentieth century were archaeologists able to firmly establish an Early Holocene occupation of the California coast on the basis of radiocarbon dates (Erlandson 1994; Erlandson et al. 2008; Moratto 1984; Raab et al.

Daisy Cave (CA-SMI-261) on San Miguel Island and Arlington Springs (CA-SRI-173) on Santa Rosa Island convincingly demonstrate settlement of these islands during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. At Daisy Cave, basketry and cord- California Galapagos / 21 age remnants date between about cal 6,000 and 8,850 BC, making these usually perishable materials among the oldest of the North American Pacific Coast (Connolly et al. 1995). The earliest of these dates point to one of the earliest human settlements of the North American Pacific Coast (Erlandson et al.

Three terrains—Coastal Terrace, Upland Marine Terraces, and Plateau—are largely a product of emergent marine terraces mentioned earlier. Structurally, these terraces consist of wave-cut platforms, sea cliffs, and post-emergent colluvial wedges covering the platforms at the bases of sea cliffs. These terrace terrains can be segregated on the basis of their relative age (age increases with elevation), and the degree of erosion or deposition of terrace surfaces, a primary factor in archaeological preservation.

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