Renowned Researcher Explores Significance Of Archaeological Finds In Channel Islands

Oct 5, 2016

The Channel Islands are known for their incredible and mostly unspoiled beauty.

To archaeologists around the world, they hold a very different significance, one that’s little-known even to many people in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

The oldest human remains found in North American were discovered on one of the islands.

Dr. Torben Rick is Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Rick, who is originally from Ventura County, has studied the Channel Islands for years.

He says there have been a lot of archeological finds in the islands, but there’s one that has special significance to researchers. It was the discovery of who is known as the Arlington Springs Man, the remains of a man dating back 13,000 years.

The find is the oldest of its type in North America. Rick says the islands are rich in archaeological treasures, with multiple sites dating back 10 to 13,000 years, and many more as the calendar clicks towards the present.

Rick was the keynote speaker at the California Islands Symposium in Ventura. It’s a conference held every three to five years so researchers can compare notes share studies related to the islands. More than 250 scientists, resource managers, educators, and others interested in the Channel Islands are on hand for the four day event.

There’s been a big push during the last few decades to reverse the impacts of ranching, and other human activities in the islands by removing non-native species, and restoring natural habitat.

With human activity dating back more than 10,000 years, Rick says it creates some interesting questions for those trying to determine the islands natural state.

Rick says much of his research now isn’t focused on new archaeological digs, but trying to use modern technology to better understand items in existing collections.

The researcher says while we think of the Channel Islands as a place of beauty, which they are, we also need to realize that in the world of anthropology they are an internationally known treasure because of the stories the items being found there are telling us.