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Bert A. Gerow

This article most recently appeared in Papers on California Prehistory: 3, edited by Gary S. Breschini and Trudy Haversat. Coyote Press Archives of California Prehistory 33:1-7, 1991.

It was originally presented at the 1972 Meeting of the Southwestern Anthropological Association and the Society for California Archaeology, Long Beach, March 29-April 1, 1972. Only one reference was updated for the 1991 publication.

During the past three decades the single most important premise in Central California archaeology has been, I believe, that the Windmiller Facies Settlements in the Lower Sacramento Valley antedate, possibly by more than a millennium, the earliest evidence of human occupation from the Central Coast. On this premise has been built a taxonomic system which expresses cultural relationships in terms of widespread parallelism (Culture Horizons), and regional divergence (Zones, Provinces). It is essentially a unilinear model, in which equivalent selected traits imply contemporaneity and divergences imply temporal differences or local adjustments to different environments. (Heizer 1949, 1971).

As early as 1954 in a paper read before the AAAS Winter Meetings held in Berkeley, California I questioned the validity of a unilinear model and proposed one based on the early coexistence and later convergence of two traditions and populations. A more explicit argument was finally published in 1968 in An Analysis of the University Village Complex: With a Reappraisal of Central California Archaeology (Gerow with Force 1968). Stanford Man II adds to the growing evidence that Early San Francisco Bay Culture not only co-existed with the Windmiller Facies Culture but may antedate the latter in Central California.

If one uses the individual grave as the unit of analysis, the Windmiller Culture or Tradition is characterized by high frequencies of ventrally extended burials oriented to the west, cut and drilled quadrilateral fractions of abalone shell, projectile points, quartz crystals and drilled charmstones. An emphasis on hunting, warfare and ceremonial regalia is indicated. Central California complexes that deviate from this pattern in the direction of those defined stratigraphically for the upper levels of CA-SAC-107, the Windmiller type site, and CA-SJO-142 have been judged to follow the Windmiller Facies Settlements in time.

During the 1950s three accepted dates of 4350 ± 250 radiocarbon years: 2400 B.C., 4100 ± 250 radiocarbon years: 2150 B.C., 4052 ± 160 radiocarbon years: 2102 B.C. (Heizer 1971) were determined for the Blossom Site (CA-SJO-68). A widely accepted statement has been that the Blossom Site is on typological grounds the most recent of the Windmiller Facies Settlements and, therefore, approximately 2000 B.C. marks the termination of the Early Horizon Culture in Central California. I questioned this assessment and reasoned that the Middle Period or what I termed the "Middle Horizon Proper," as evidenced stratigraphically at CA-SAC-107 and CA-SJO-142, did not commence much prior to 500 B.C. That the radiocarbon dates from the Blossom Site did not clearly provide a minimal date for the majority of its archaeological materials described in print was also pointed out.

My reasoning was based on evidence from the San Francisco Bay region that bead types diagnostically Early in the Lower Sacramento Valley occurred in well defined burial contexts at University Village (CA-SMA-77) and West Berkeley (CA-ALA-307) and were followed in time by Middle Period bead types, such as occurred stratigraphically at CA-SAC-107 and CA-SJO-142, but the change-over took place closer to 500 B.C. than 1500 to 2000 B.C. Therefore, University Village, the lower levels of West Berkeley and probably the lowest levels of Ellis Landing (CA-CCO-295) should be contemporaneous with one or more of the Windmiller Facies Settlements. Since Early Bay complexes exhibit a pattern of flexed burial posture, variable or nonventral position and variable or non-westerly orientation and a greater emphasis on seed-pulverizing implements, flake and core tools and the use of abrasion in the manufacture of artifacts, two traditions must have co-existed in Central California for a considerable period of time. Instances of extended posture, patterned ventral position and patterned westerly orientation have been reported from the Coast as separate items, but thus far they have only been found in contexts which are more recent than 500 B.C. Such instances suggest an intensification of Bay and Lower Sacramento Valley contacts after 500 B.C. rather than carryovers from a basic cultural substratum. Present evidence indicates that cultural and populational differences between Coast and Valley were greater rather than less prior to 500 B.C., and, therefore, a model of convergence or acculturation would reflect more accurately the cultural dynamics of Central California prehistory.

If one accepts the assumption that the San Francisco Bay region was a culturally backward and stagnant area where change was slow, and that burial practices are much less subject to change than shell beads, then logically flexed burial posture, variable or non-ventral position and variable or non-westerly orientation should antedate the Windmiller pattern in Central California.

Advocates of the antiquity of the Windmiller Culture and the validity of the Central California Taxonomic System have suggested the existence of a fundamental connection between Windmiller Facies Settlements and presumed early but undated instances of extended burials at Buena Vista in the southern San Joaquin Valley, Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles County and D. B. Rogers' Oak Grove People on the Santa Barbara coast. I fail to see any connection that cannot be better explained by a model of convergence between at least two contrasting patterns. That burial posture alone has greater heuristic value than other cultural traits, such as position and orientation, is an assumption to be demonstrated. Patterned ventral position, patterned westerly orientation, drilled quadrilateral fractions of abalone shell, projectile points, quartz crystals and charmstones are absent or rare in both presumed and dated early southern California contexts. Although early complexes on the southern coast have relatively few grave associations, such shared items as stone seed-pulverizing implements, stone cairns over graves, flake and core tools, abalone shell dishes and thick disk beads of clam shell are absent or rare in Windmiller Facies Settlements but show up more frequently in later Valley contexts.

Since 1968 additional data supportive of my point of view have become available. These are David Fredrickson's M.A. thesis, CCo-308: The Archaeology of a Middle Horizon Site in Interior Contra Costa County, California (1966); Sonia Ragir's Ph.D. dissertation, The Early Horizon in Central California Prehistory (1969), and radiocarbon dates for the Stanford Man II burial, Stanford, California.

A date of 4450 ± 400 radiocarbon years: 2500 B.C. (Fredrickson 1966) has been determined for one grave at CA-CCO-308. The grave was at a depth of 16.5 feet from the surface, lying stratigraphically at the base of Component C. Burial posture was consistently flexed throughout the site; position was predominantly lateral and orientation southerly or variable. Distinctive Windmiller or Middle Period bead types are lacking from Components B and C. A Middle Period bead type (Olivella 3b1) co-occurs with a Late Period bead type (Olivella 2a1) in Component A. On the assumption that the Blossom Site was the most recent of the Windmiller Facies Settlements, Fredrickson, in 1966, considered that the complex probably represented the arrival of Middle Horizon people in Central California and that the true maximum date would probably be approximately 2100 B.C. or one sigma of error less than the radiocarbon date. Fredrickson did not comment on the fact that a greater number of Windmiller derived traits occur in Component B rather than Component C, e.g., quartz crystals, tabular charmstone, spatulate bone, long bone pin, and the greater number of flaked stone points absolutely and relative to flake and core tools. Such associations as mortars, cobblestone pestle, and flake and core tools are more characteristic of Component C.

Sonia Ragir's dissertation includes an analysis of previously unpublished data from CA-SJO-68. A series of radiocarbon dates obtained for five Windmiller Facies Settlements and her analysis of charmstones and projectile points are in agreement with my conclusions: 1) the Blossom Site is not the most recent of the Windmiller Facies Settlements, 2) Early Bay and Windmiller Cultures coexisted for at least several hundred years, 3) Windmiller Facies Settlements probably persisted down to approximately 500 B.C. However, Ragir generally ignores the Bay region except to conclude that the Middle Horizon Culture or her Cosumnes Culture spread into the Valley from the Central Coast after about 3000 years ago having originated between 4,000 and 5,000 years B.P. on the southern coast of California, the La Jolla Complex. She does not cite An Analysis of the University Village Complex and apparently my interpretation had little or no influence on her own. My own interpretation is that a fundamental connection probably existed between Early Bay and early complexes in southern California but at a time level prior to the intrusion of Windmiller people into Central California. Ragir makes no mention of the radiocarbon date of 2500 ± 400 B.C. for CA-CCO-308, which despite its large standard deviation equals the earliest of the CA-SJO-68 dates. Furthermore, no explanation is offered for the fact shown in her Table 16 that deviations from the Windmiller pattern of extended burial posture, ventral position and westerly orientation are more frequent in the lower levels of CA-SJO-68.

In the Spring of 1963 a human vertebra was partially exposed in the right bank of the San Francisquito Creek near the Convalescent Home, Stanford University, at a depth of 16.5 to 17 feet. The immediate vicinity has been under periodic surveillance for many years since the Stanford Skull had been recovered nearby in 1922 at a depth of 20 feet below the surface of the alluvial fan (Willis 1922). In the fifties a small lens of charcoal containing a bone fragment was observed in the same immediate vicinity and at a comparable depth.

Figure 1. General View of the Stanford Man II Locus.

Figure 2. Stanford Man II Burial.

Excavation revealed an articulated post-cranial skeleton of an adolescent or sub-adult male in a flexed posture, lying on his left side and oriented east northeast (N 70 E). Three relatively large side-notched, leaf-shaped points of Monterey chert (see Fig. 3 and Table 1) were found in direct association lying in the area between the knees and elbows. Small lumps of charcoal were scattered through the matrix surrounding the burial. An eccentric pebble of probable marine origin with a natural perforation near one edge and two rodent incisors were the only other associations observed in situ. From the alluvium which had collapsed to the stream bed below sizeable fragments of the cranium, mandible and distal end of the right radius of Stanford Man II and a fragmentary milk canine of a large carnivore (bear?) were recovered by washing the alluvium through a hand screen.

There is nothing unusual about the grave itself since flexed burial posture, lateral position and variable or non-westerly orientation is the general pattern which has been observed at CA-CCO-308, West Berkeley and University Village as well as in later complexes in the Bay region. Concentrations of charcoal in the immediate vicinity of the grave have been described for CA-CCO-308, University Village and possibly West Berkeley. Similar side-notched, leaf-shaped projectile points (SCa1) are known in fair numbers from CA-CCO-308, the lower levels of West Berkeley (CA-ALA-307) and also occurred at University Village (CA-SMA-77). This type is present in Windmiller Facies Settlements but rare relative to concave based and parallel and contracting stemmed points. Pebbles with natural perforations, which may have served as ornaments, were also recovered at University Village. The significance of the burial lies in its relatively early date and the fact that no fundamental cultural change within the Central Coast for a period in excess of 4000 years is indicated.

In December of 1970 Rainer Berger of UCLA, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, sent me the results of two radiocarbon dates run on fragments of the skull and femur. These gave readings of 4400 ± 270 radiocarbon years: 2450 B.C. (UCLA-1425A) and 4350 ± 125 radiocarbon years: 2400 B.C. (UCLA-1425B). Together with the date of 4450 ± 400 radiocarbon years determined for Component C at CA-CCO-308 they establish along the Central Coast the presence of flexed posture, lateral position and non-westerly orientation several hundred years earlier than that established in the Lower Sacramento Valley for extended burial posture, ventral position and westerly orientation. The earliest date from the Blossom Site refers to a cremation at a depth of 50 inches, and the other two early dates are from composite samples collected between 24 and 60 inches. The earliest dates which refer to articulated skeletons are 3775 ± 160 radiocarbon years: 1825 B.C. and 3585 ± 110 radiocarbon years: 1635 B.C. (Ragir 1969). These refer to UCAS burials 23 and 24 which lay, fully extended, ventrally, with the head to the west at a depth of 47 inches.

Stanford Man II was so-named because of his location near the Stanford Skull discovered in 1922. R.F. Heizer has brought together what little information exists on the circumstances of the discovery of the Stanford Skull and T.D. McCown has described its physical characteristics (Heizer and McCown 1950). The skull was found "abreast of the Stanford Residence" at a depth of 20 feet from the surface of the alluvial fan in a gravel bed which was interpreted as an earlier course of the San Francisquito Creek. This would place the skull within five hundred feet downstream from the locus of Stanford Man II.

In view of the apparent older geological context of the Stanford Skull it was initially thought that dating the "less valuable" Stanford Man II would provide a minimal date for the Stanford Skull. In addition to the radiocarbon determinations Rainer Berger also measured the fluorine and uranium content of Stanford Man II. These yielded 0.27%, fluorine and 44 ppm. uranium. Using an electron microprobe and a standard Geiger-Muller counter we have obtained similar values of 0.29 ± 0.05% fluorine and 48 ± 10 ppm. uranium on a fragment of femur bone from Stanford Man II. A sample cut from a basal process of the sphenoid of the Stanford Skull and tested under the same laboratory conditions yielded only 0.21 ± 0.05%, fluorine and < 10 ± 10 ppm. uranium.

Figure 3. Associated Chert Points, Naturally Perforated Pebble,
and Milk Canine Tooth of a Large Carnivore (Bear?).

Table 1. Measurements of Chert Points (keyed to Figure 3).
 Length (cm)Width (cm)Thickness (cm)Weight (g)


Fredrickson, David Allen. 1966. CCo-308: The Archaeology of a Middle Horizon Site in Interior Contra Costa County, California. Unpublished M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis.

Gerow, Bert A., with R.W. Force. 1968. An Analysis of the University Village Complex: With a Reappraisal of Central California Archaeology. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.

Heizer, R.F. 1949. The Archaeology of Central California, I: The Early Horizon. University of California Anthropological Records 12(1).

Heizer, R.F. 1971. The Western Coast of North America. In: The California Indians, A Source Book, R. F. Heizer and M. A. Whipple, editors and compilers, pp. 131-143. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Heizer, R.F., and T.D. McCown. 1950. The Stanford Skull, A Probable Early Man from Santa Clara County, California. Reports of the University of California Archaeological Survey 6.

Ragir, Sonia Ruth. 1969. The Early Horizon in Central California Prehistory. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.

Wallace, W. J., and D.W. Lathrap. 1975. West Berkeley (CA-ALA-307): A Culturally Stratified Shellmound on the East Shore of San Francisco Bay. Contributions of the University of California Archaeological Research Facility 29.

Willis, Bailey. 1922. Out of the Long Past. The Stanford Cardinal 32:8-11.

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