Significant Archaeological Find In Channel Islands Backs Idea People Lived There 10,000+ Years Ago

Jun 6, 2017

Some prehistoric artifacts found on one of the Channel Islands provide new evidence the islands may have been home to some of North America’s first residents.

The archaeological site was discovered on Santa Rosa Island last week.

Laura Kern, the Chief of Cultural Resources for Channel Islands National Park, says the find happened as work was getting started to restore some historic ranch buildings at Beechers Bay. The buildings, which date back some 150 years, are going to be turned into visitor housing. But, they need to be refurbished, which includes replacing rotting foundations.

The islands are known to be archaeologically rich. So, as work got underway, National Park Service archaeological technician Nicole Kulaga was on hand to sift through soil in the trenches being dug under the house. She hit paydirt, in the form of a type of a stone tool used by island residents more than 10,000 years ago. She says it was exciting to find something so important.

Now, a team of people is sifting through soil being removed from under and around the ranch house, looking for more artifacts. They've recovered a number of artifacts. There are what are known as Channel Island barbed points, which are sharp points used on spears for hunting and fishing. There are also crescents, which are crescent shaped carved rocks which were attached to spears, and thrown at birds to disable them so they could be captured and eaten.

Gary Brown, with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, is overseeing the archaeological team, and says they’ve found a half dozen relics, as well as fragments of rock from toolmaking. The tools are significant in that they are new evidence of a migration of people from northeast Asia to North, and South America.

University of Oregon archaeologist John Erlandson says there are at least 100 identified sites in the Channel Islands at least 7500 years old, and some top 10,000. But, he says the oldest artifacts are in the ocean off of Santa Rosa Island, and could be 13,000 years old.   He says 10,000 years ago, what are now Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, and Anacapa Islands were all part of one big island, which they call Santarosae Island.

On the south side of the long gone island was a bay, Crescent Bay, which they believe was a protected home for native peoples which was rich with food sources. Erlandson has been using a sub, and other technology to map the sea floor for archaeological exploration.

As for the ranch house reconstruction project, the information gathered will be used to determine if they refurbished buildings can remain on the site, or will need to be relocated.