ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS AT CA-SLO-692,
IN THE NACIMIENTO LAKE AREA,
NORTHERN SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
Gary S. Breschini and Trudy Haversat
with contributions by
M.F. Rondeau and A.L. Runnings
This document was written in 1991.
This Archaeological Report details the methods utilized and summarizes the results obtained from a limited test excavation conducted on a portion of archaeological site CA-SLO-692, situated in the Nacimiento Lake area of northern San Luis Obispo County, California. The excavations were conducted during July of 1989. The results of these investigations have been reported for use in cultural resource management planning (Breschini and Haversat 1989a, 1991). The 1991 report has been slightly modified for inclusion here.
PROJECT LOCATION AND SETTINGArchaeological site CA-SLO-692 is a prehistoric deposit located approximately 900 meters southwest of the Nacimiento River, about midway between the Nacimiento Dam and the western boundary of Camp Roberts, in northern San Luis Obispo County, California (see Fig. 1).
The site is located along a narrow finger ridge extending north-south toward the Nacimiento River. It includes one locus recorded in 1973, and two additional loci recorded during 1988. The main site locus, recorded as CA-SLO-692, is designated herein (and in Gibson's 1988a report) as Area 2. The two additional areas, located by Gibson in 1988 (Areas 1 and 3) are thought to be a part of CA-SLO-692, but have not been investigated and formally recorded as such.
The main archaeological deposit at Area 2 is approximately 100 meters north-south by 70 meters east-west, and the area is approximately 5,000 square meters. The site is characterized as a lithic scatter in the records, but, as documented during this project, it contains numerous other materials.
CA-SLO-692 has been impacted over the years by cattle grazing and miscellaneous earth moving. In spite of these adverse impacts, however, the archaeological investigations suggest that the portion of the site tested is substantially intact.
Figure 1. Some of the Sites Discussed in the Text.
Site CA-SLO-692 was first recorded on June 8, 1973 by R.O. Gibson and G. Henton. They described the site as a small flake scatter. Materials collected at that time included chert flakes, a chert core, and a chert biface fragment. These are curated at the Chumash Research Center at Cuesta College.
In April and May of 1988, R.O. Gibson conducted an archaeological survey of the Riverview Heights (Tract 1528) of the Heritage Ranch. He relocated site CA-SLO-692, and identified two additional areas which were thought to contain cultural materials. He recommended that:(1) the entire archaeological site and a buffer zone of about 50 meters wide be left in permanent open space and protected from direct and indirect impacts; orIn July of 1989, we examined the archaeological site, and were subsequently authorized to conduct a limited subsurface test to determine the boundaries, nature and significance of the deposit.
(2) a comprehensive program of subsurface testing be conducted to determine the subsurface boundaries of the site, as well as its nature and significance, and that appropriate mitigation measures be formulated for the area to be impacted by development.
The fieldwork for this project was conducted between July 28 and 30, 1989. The principal investigators were Trudy Haversat, M.A. and Gary S. Breschini, Ph.D., and the crew consisted of Janice I. Whitlow, B.A.
Three archaeological units were excavated. All were 1 x 1 meter in size and were excavated using the following field procedures: excavation was conducted with hand tools (including pick, shovel, trowel, hoe, etc.), with all recovered soils being screened through 1/8 inch mesh portable shaker screens. The units were excavated in 10 cm levels to the bottom of the cultural deposit. No sorting was done in the field, except that any artifacts which were noted were immediately removed and separately bagged. When artifacts were encountered in the floor of the unit, they were carefully exposed and recorded. Field notes for all levels of each unit were kept on standardized level record forms.
All materials (except bulk rock) which did not pass through the 1/8 inch screens were bagged, labeled, and transported to the laboratory for wet screening (again using 1/8 inch mesh), air drying on window mesh, and sorting prior to analysis.
A limited unsystematic surface collection was made. Any artifacts which were noted on the surface were collected.
The result of the sampling procedure described above was a detailed examination of an extremely small sample of the cultural resource. The size of the sample at the primary area of CA-SLO-692 was approximately 0.04%. Given the limited sample generally obtained through a test excavation, it is statistically assured that the investigation missed some significant data. Accordingly, in using this report it must be remembered that the data which follow represent only a limited subset of the data which are actually present.
The laboratory methods which were employed were as follows: when the materials from the field excavations arrived in the laboratory they were wet screened using 1/8 inch mesh. Following air drying on window screens (1/16 inch mesh), the materials were sorted. The artifacts were removed and catalogued individually by provenience. Some specimens were illustrated and/or photographed. The bone, fish bone, flaked stone and debitage, fire-altered rock, charcoal, pigment, and other midden constituents which were present were recovered by provenience for further analysis or curation.
RESULTS OF THE INVESTIGATIONS
The following sections present a discussion of the midden deposit and the cultural materials recovered during the investigations, as well as our interpretations of the data.
Based on the available data, the main locus of archaeological site CA-SLO-692 appears to be a small village or substantial campsite utilized for the exploitation of locally available resources. This is based on the presence of moderate quantities of lithics (including 19 lithic artifacts, as well as debitage), some bone, fire-altered rock, a mortar fragment, bone tool, and one shell bead.
Units 1 and 2 were excavated in the primary deposit (Area 2) to a depth of 80-100 cm. The bottom of the units were characterized by irregular sandstone and other culturally sterile deposits.
Area 1, to the south of the main midden area was determined to be a peripheral utilization area, probably used for resource gathering. The materials identified, very small pressure flakes, probably resulted from tool maintenance.
Area 3, to the north of the main midden area, was determined to be a natural occurrence. Native cherts are exposed along the top of the ridge; they probably were damaged by road grading operations, creating small non-cultural flakes and shatter.
A more detailed description of the recovered materials is presented in the following sections.
Non-artifactual materials recovered far from the prehistoric deposit included shellfish remains, rock and thermally-altered rock, lithics (chert), charcoal, bone, and pigment. These are described in the following section.
All of the following descriptions pertain to the main midden area, Area 2. Only lithic materials, in small quantities, were found in Areas 1 and 3.
Table 1. Midden Constituents from CA-SLO-692 (all weights are in grams).
FCR* Lithics Non-fish
Shell Charcoal Pigment Unit 1 0-10 cm 239.0 43.0 7.1 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 10-20 cm 1,136.4 133.8 24.6 0.0 0.6 0.2 0.0 20-30 cm 3,084.8 106.6 24.2 0.1 0.7 1.4 0.0 30-40 cm 3,586.6 236.1 17.4 0.0 1.0 0.8 0.0 40-50 cm 1,228.4 235.6 14.3 0.0 0.8 1.0 0.4 50-60 cm 682.6 319.6 16.0 0.0 0.7 0.5 0.0 60-70 cm 674.6 120.7 24.6 0.0 1.2 0.5 0.0 70-80 cm 269.2 290.8 15.4 0.0 1.9 0.8 0.0 80-90 cm 285.4 37.5 9.0 0.0 1.4 0.2 0.0 Unit Total 11,187.0 1,523.7 152.6 0.1 8.4 5.4 4.0 Unit Percent 86.85 11.83 1.18 0.00 0.07 0.04 0.03 Unit 2 0-10 cm 508.6 56.3 6.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 10-20 cm 2,672.2 120.1 15.6 0.0 0.0 0.7 0.0 20-30 cm 1,565.7 187.3 12.0 0.0 0.0 2.3 0.0 30-40 cm 2,687.6 56.1 11.0 0.0 0.0 2.0 0.0 40-50 cm 837.8 86.3 9.6 0.0 0.0 0.9 0.0 50-60 cm 1,272.9 82.4 8.3 0.0 0.0 1.7 0.0 60-70 cm 196.9 42.0 6.6 0.0 0.0 0.7 0.0 70-80 cm 527.2 10.8 10.1 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.0 80-90 cm 542.4 18.7 7.2 0.0 0.4 0.4 0.0 90-100 cm 124.9 56.4 1.9 0.0 0.2 0.3 0.0 Unit Total 10,936.2 716.4 88.8 0.0 0.6 9.4 0.0 Unit Percent 93.06 6.10 0.76 0.00 0.00 0.08 0.00 TOTAL 22,123.2 2,240.1 241.4 0.1 9.0 14.8 4.0 PERCENT 89.81 9.09 0.98 0.0 0.04 0.06 0.02 * = Fire-altered rock
The quantities of shellfish remains recovered from the deposit are very small (Table 1). Most of the shellfish remains recovered consisted of small fragments of Tegula (turban snail; see Table 2).
This is a very unusual occurrence, as the species which are normally dominant are abalone, mussel, or Pismo clam. However, one nearby site also has a high percentage of Tegula. This site (CA-SLO-1180, in the western portion of Camp Roberts) has been subjected to minor subsurface testing, which produced a radiocarbon date of 1245 ± 50 B.P. (WSU-3617). The San Simeon sites tested by the California Department of Parks and Recreation (Hines 1986) also exhibited this unusual characteristic, suggesting a trade network for Tegula in the northern San Luis Obispo County area.
As shown by Table 2, the two units excavated contained different quantities and species of shellfish. This suggests that the site has internal variation. However, the small sample (two units) which was excavated for the initial test was not sufficient to explore these internal variations.
Table 2. Shellfish Remains from CA-SLO-692 (all weights are in grams).
Tegula Mytilus Chiton Limpet Crab Unit 1 0-10 cm 0.1 10-20 cm 0.6 20-30 cm 0.7 30-40 cm 0.6 0.4 40-50 cm 0.7 0.1 50-60 cm 0.1 0.6 60-70 cm 0.7 0.4 0.1 70-80 cm 1.7 0.1 0.1 80-90 cm 0.8 0.2 0.4 Unit Total 5.9 1.2 0.8 0.4 0.1 Unit Percent 70.2 14.3 9.5 4.8 1.2 Unit 2 0-10 cm 10-20 cm 20-30 cm 30-40 cm 40-50 cm 50-60 cm 60-70 cm 70-80 cm 80-90 cm 0.2 0.2 90-100 cm 0.2 Unit Total 0.4 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 Unit Percent 66.7 33.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 TOTAL 6.3 1.4 0.8 0.4 0.1 PERCENT 70.0 15.6 8.9 4.4 1.1
Charcoal was a very minor constituent in the deposit (Table 1). No individual pieces large enough for radiocarbon dating were recovered, but when the initial Tegula sample submitted for dating produced unexpected results, the entire contents of three levels were submitted for dating. Unit 1, 70-90 cm produced 1.0 g of charcoal, while Unit 2, 50-60 cm produced a sample of 1.7 g (see Temporal Placement, below).
Rock and Thermally-Altered Rock
In general, fire-altered rock was present throughout the main midden area (Table 1). For the most part, this consisted of relatively dense andesites and granitics which appear to have been altered by cooking or warming fires. Quantities per level ranged from 239.0 to 3,586.6 g (average 1,243.0 g) in Unit 1 and 124.9 to 2,687.6 g (average 1,093.6 g) in Unit 2.
A single piece of red ochre (4.0 g) was recovered from Unit 1 at 40-50 cm.
Flaked Stone Debitage
Lithic materials were noted throughout the main site deposit (Area 2; see Table 1). Of the 2,381 debitage specimens, Monterey Chert was most common (2,014, 84.6%), followed by Franciscan Chert (357, 15.0%), igneous rocks (7, 0.3%), and obsidian (3, 0.1%). These materials are described in more detail in Appendix 1.
A total of 19 lithic artifacts were recovered. These included four projectile points, five unfinished bifaces, five edge modified flakes, three cores, one uniface, and one uniface retouch flake (see below). However, there was not sufficient material in the collection to establish a lithic reduction sequence for the site.
Area 1 contained small quantities (4-6 flakes per unit level) of very small pressure flakes. It is likely that these represent debris from tool sharpening associated with tool use.
Area 3 contained native cherts, but none of the materials appeared to be cultural. Rather, they appeared to be the result of mechanical damage associated with road grading. As such, this area was not dealt with further.
Minor quantities of vertebrate remains were recovered from both units in the main midden area (Area 2). These represented mammals, possibly reptiles, birds, and very small quantities of fish (Table 1).
In general, the terrestrial vertebrate remains are very finely broken. Many of the remains appear to represent medium to large land mammals, such as rabbits and deer, and almost certainly were used for food.
A detailed analysis of the faunal remains has not been performed as a part of this investigation. This should be accomplished during the mitigation phase when the sample is larger.
A total of 23 artifacts were recovered during the investigations. These consisted of: four projectile points or point fragments, five unfinished bifaces or biface fragments, five edge modified flakes, three cores, one uniface, one uniface retouch flake, an Olivella shell bead, a bone tube, a tarred pebble, and a bowl mortar fragment. Selected specimens are illustrated in Figures 2 and 3.
Flaked Stone Artifacts
Projectile Points.--Two items (Cat. Nos. 692-5 and 692-8; see Fig. 3) were stem fragments which may have come from a fairly large contracting stem point type which might also include the specimen with the base missing (692-9). The fourth artifact (692-15) did not suggest a type as it was only an edge fragment. All four retained pressure flake scars. Only the blade element (692-9) had a large enough surface area to also exhibit percussion thinning flake scars.
Unfinished Bifaces.--The five unfinished bifaces (692-3, 692-10, 692-12, 692-13, and 692-22; see Fig. 2) were mainly Monterey Chert, with only one specimen (692-10) of Franciscan Chert. Two (692-3 and 692-12), based on their level of refinement in terms of cross section, outline and edge control, as well as flake scar patterns, were placed in the early thinning stage. The reason one was not completed was that there was a failure to successfully thin the piece, while the other was broken during manufacture. Two others (692-10 and 692-22) were placed in the middle thinning stage. Both were broken during manufacture. The final specimen (692-13) is placed in the preform stage, although it could probably not have functioned as a crudely formed projectile point. While its still crudely formed nature suggests that it was not finished, its morphology is advanced enough to indicate that it was intended to be one of the larger contracting stem point types. It appears to have been broken during manufacture.
Uniface.--Only one specimen (692-14) was initially classed as a uniface. It was a flake of Monterey Chert exhibiting flake scars onto the dorsal face that might be the result of pressure flaking, heavy use or some sort of accidental retouch such as occurs during trampling. Microscopic inspection of this piece found no evidence of use wear, but did identify recent edge damage that accounts for some of the modification, but not necessarily all of it.
Uniface retouch flake.--The single uniface retouch flake (692-11) retained evidence of use wear on a portion of its working edge. Subsequent to this, percussion flake scars indicate that rejuvenation of portions of the edge occurred with blows struck against the ventral side of the uniface, removing portions of the tool's modified dorsal face which has been discussed elsewhere as "Retouch Method C" (Shafer 1970:484). Following this rejuvenation work, based on the sequence of the flake scars, at least one flake was removed from the uniface by striking the modified dorsal. This flake was detached from the ventral surface of the uniface. This is Shafer's Retouch Method B. This latter method was also the rejuvenation technique used to remove the specimen under discussion.
Cores.--Three cores were recovered from the site, two of Monterey Chert (692-7 and 692-19) and one of Franciscan Chert (692-1). All three were made from cobbles with what appeared to be water worn cortex. The Franciscan specimen was a bifacial core in that flakes were removed from both faces of a single working edge. While this piece had a somewhat chopper-like appearance, no micro-flaking or other readily apparent edge damage was observed to indicate that it had been used. One of the Monterey Chert cores was multi-directional and the other may have been. No apparent strategies were indicated by these latter two pieces. The sample of cores was too small to allow any general interpretative conclusions.
Edge Modified Flakes.--For the five edge modified flakes (692-16, 692-17, 692-18, 692-20, and 692-21), only one (692-18) retained evidence of use wear. Three specimens were too weathered to allow identification of use induced edge rounding or striations. One of these three and the fifth piece exhibited recent damage that, at a minimum, accounts for at least some of the edge modification.
Figure 2. Selected Artifacts from CA-SLO-692. 692-3, 692-13, and 692-22: unfinished bifaces; 692-9: contracting stem projectile point fragment; 692-23: mortar bowl fragment. Illustrations by Anna L. Runnings.
A single shell artifact, identified as a Type K1 Olivella Cup bead, was recovered from the deposit (Fig. 3). As noted by Gibson:Olivella cup beads are used as time markers for the beginning of the Late Period in the Chumash cultural sequence beginning about A.D. 1150 (C.D. King 1981). From then to A.D. 1500 they were often larger (over 4.3 mm diameter) than the forms from A.D. 1500-1700 (usually 2.1 to 3.8 mm) [Gibson 1988a:103].As the diameter of the recovered specimen (Cat. No. 692-2) is greater than 4.3 mm, it is likely that it represents the beginning of the Late Period. This estimate of 1150 to 1500 A.D. is generally consistent with the two radiocarbon dates obtained from charcoal (750 ± 110 B.P. and 920 ± 160 B.P.), which suggest that the occupation of the deposit was underway during the period between approximately 1030 and 1200 A.D. (see Temporal Affiliation, below).
Figure 3. Selected Artifacts from CA-SLO-692. 692-2: Olivella shell bead; 692-5 and 692-8: projectile point basal fragments; 692-4: bone tube. Illustrations by Anna L. Runnings.
A single bone artifact (692-4) was recovered from the deposit (Fig. 3). This artifact, probably a bead or tube, was fashioned from a small bird bone by cutting out a piece about 2.5 cm in length and polishing the ends. The body of the artifact, however, was not polished or modified. This specimen resembles Gifford's type EE1a (cf. Gifford 1940:165, 227).
Ground Stone Artifact
Only one ground stone artifact was recovered during the investigations. This item, a small fragment of a mortar bowl (692-23), was recovered during the surface collection (see Fig. 2). It suggests the processing of acorns at the site, but the presence of only one such item suggests that acorn use was a minor activity. Because the excavation sample was limited, however, the amount of acorn use cannot be accurately estimated.
A small tar-covered pebble (692-6) was recovered from Unit 1, 60-70 cm. Its small size (ca. 12 x 18 mm), however, suggests that it was not a primary applicator for tar.
These artifacts are consistent with the assumed function of the site as a small village or campsite. The emphasis on lithic materials suggests that hunting was an important, if not the primary, activity. Basic subsistence activities were also carried out at this site.
Temporal Placement of the Deposit
The temporal placement of CA-SLO-692 was estimated based on radiocarbon dating and examination of temporally-sensitive artifacts. The results of these determinations are discussed in the following sections.
The temporal placement of this site appears to be more complex than normal. As shown by Table 3, below, two different cultural materials and dating processes resulted in two different temporal assignments for the site (see also Fig. 3). This is discussed in the following sections.
The first radiocarbon sample consisted of a single small piece of Tegula weighing approximately ‰1.0 g. It was recovered from the 70-80 cm level of Unit 1, the level with the largest quantity of available shell. Because of the small size of the sample, the accelerator mass spectroscopy (AMS) technique had to be used. The result was 4245 ± 80 B.P. (BETA-35001/ETH-6082). Because the sample did not agree with our initial estimates of the site's age, based on the Olivella bead and other considerations, it was decided that additional samples would have to be submitted. Accordingly, a second AMS sample was submitted using the remaining Tegula shell from the 70-80 cm level of Unit 1 (about 0.8 g). This returned a date of 3235 ± 60 (BETA-37422/ETH-6606).
Two samples consisting of loose charcoal from individual levels also were submitted for standard radiocarbon dating. The first, weighing about 1.0 g, was from the 70-90 cm levels of Unit 1, and was designed to provide an age estimate based on a different technique and material. This sample returned a date of 920 ± 160 (WSU-4131). The final sample was from the 50-60 cm level of Unit 2. It was selected because it was the largest sample (1.7 g) available below 40 cm. It returned a date of 750 ± 110 (WSU-4132).
Table 3. Radiocarbon Determinations from CA-SLO-692.The results of the four radiocarbon determinations are not entirely clear. The easiest solution to the discrepancy between the early and late dates from the same levels would be to discount the two early dates as erroneous because of small sample size, contamination, or some other (unknown) factor. This would then provide a Late Period temporal affiliation for the site, which is generally consistent with site placement, midden characteristics, some of the artifacts, and results of previous investigations in the area.
Laboratory number Measured
Provenience Material WSU-4132 750 ± 110 Unit 2, 50-60 cm Loose charcoal WSU-4131 920 ± 160 Unit 1, 70-90 cm Loose charcoal BETA-37422/ETH-6606 3235 ± 60 Unit 1, 70-80 cm Shell-Tegula f. BETA-35001/ETH-6082 4245 ± 80 Unit 1, 70-80 cm Shell-Tegula f.
The nearest site from which a radiocarbon date has been obtained is CA-SLO-1180, in the western portion of Camp Roberts. That sample, obtained using Tegula and standard radiocarbon dating techniques, returned a date of 1245 ± 50 B.P. With the shellfish correction factor (see below), this date is in general agreement with the two charcoal samples obtained from CA-SLO-692. This correction would also place it very close to the range suggested by the single K1 Olivella bead.
However, without some specific reason for the discrepancy, it is difficult to simply ignore two radiocarbon samples. It is possible that there is a lower Early Period component at the site, and that it may be identified through additional research. If additional excavations are conducted the identification and exploration of a possible Early Period component should be one of the goals.
The only temporally diagnostic item recovered from the deposit is a Type K1 Olivella shell bead. The normal time span for this type of bead on the San Luis Obispo County coast is about A.D. 1150 to 1500 (see Shell Artifact, above). This agrees with the two radiocarbon dates obtained from charcoal, and helps confirm that the site was occupied during the Late Period. (As noted above, however, this does not preclude an earlier occupation of the site as well.)
EVALUATION AND CONCLUSIONS
A summary of our findings for each of the three site loci is presented in the following section.
Based on the results of the investigations, we conclude that Area 1 of site CA-SLO-692 does not meet the requirements for significance as set forth in state law. This is based on the presence only of small quantities of lithic materials (4-6 flakes per level), the shallow depth (about 30-40 cm), and the very limited information potential of that portion of the deposit.
Based on the results of the investigations, we conclude that the main midden area of site CA-SLO-692 meets the requirements for significance as set forth in state law.
Our conclusions are based on the following:
- Cultural materials and artifacts are present which can contribute to our understanding of the prehistory of San Luis Obispo County and southern Monterey County. This is an area which has had little archaeological research, and to date very little is known about the prehistory of the region. Site CA-SLO-692 has the potential to add significantly to our knowledge of the past in several areas, including seasonal subsistence and settlement patterns, temporal affiliations, and regional trade. It is also possible that the site will contribute to the search for the Chumash/ Salinan boundary, and its shifts through time.
- The site is substantially intact. The deposit is approximately 100 cm in depth, and the lower portions do not appear to have been disturbed.
The investigations documented that Area 3 is non-cultural in origin. As such, it does not meet the criteria for significance.
The collection has been curated in the archival vault of the Monterey County Historical Society, located at the Boronda History Center in Salinas. The collection has been designated as Accession Number 26.
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APPENDIXA Technological Analysis of the Flaked Stone Assemblage from Archaeological Sites CA-SLO-692 and CA-MNT-1425, in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties, California by Michael F. Rondeau and Vicki L. Rondeau.
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