Published in Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, Volume 24, Issue 1, January 1, 2004, pages 69-80. Published with permission of the Malki Museum, Inc. P.O. Box 578, 11-795 Fields Road, Banning, CA 92220. http://www.malkimuseum.org.
A model of prehistoric marine mammal overexploitation advanced by Hildebrandt and Jones (1992) for the northeastern Pacific has been challenged by Colten (1995) and Colten and Arnold (1998) who argue that diachronic patterns in faunal remains from California’s Channel Islands reflect climatically-induced decline in marine productivity and local socio-cultural developments not over predation. In this paper, we point out that some Channel Islands faunal trends are consistent with overexploitation, while others reflect methodological variation between studies. Newly available paleoenvironmental data raise questions about previous characterizations of late Holocene marine productivity, while new zooarchaeological findings from Monterey Bay, San Miguel and San Clemente Islands provide strong support for overexploitation in ways not envisioned in the original model. Such findings show that linear optimal foraging constructs may not account for all local variation in faunal assemblages, but still provide powerful explanations for broad patterns over time and can further provide useful insights into prehistoric human ecology.
Social and Behavioral Sciences