Don Morris, National Park Service archeologist (retired), discusses artifacts found in sea caves in the Channel Islands.
Artifacts like reed figures preserve very well in dry caves or in very cold places like the Arctic. For example, archeologists have found twig figurines in the Grand Canyon that are 4,000 years old. However, archeologists do not always find everything left behind by earlier people. Many objects created by indigenous people that contain bone, wood, and other organic materials weather away and disappear over time, but stone objects are more likely to remain.
Sea caves, such as those found in the Channel Islands, are wet and have strong water currents. If reed figures, like those described in Island of the Blue Dolphins, were left in a sea cave, the figures would be swept out to sea. Although basketry fragments and other perishable items have been found in dry caves on the Channel Islands, no twig or reed figurines have so far been found in sea caves of the Channel Islands.
Burial and sacred sites are found in low energy (stable) locations where materials last. Because of environmental conditions, ceremonial sites are not as easily identified on the Channel Islands as they are in other locations, such as pueblos in the dry, arid Southwest.