Chapter 2Dr. René Vellanoweth, Professor of Anthropology, California State University, Los Angeles, has conducted many archeology investigations on San Nicolas Island. Dr. Vellanoweth discusses his research.
I have spent my career searching for clues about how the native people of San Nicolas Island lived before Europeans introduced a new way of life to the region. The island's more than 550 archeological sites provide valuable information about native people's daily and social lives.
Each year I return with my students to study these sites. We spend time surveying the island (that is, walking around it), taking measurements and drawing maps of new sites, and updating maps of old ones.
Over the years we have investigated a variety of sites, from large villages with pit houses, communal lodges, cemeteries, and big trash heaps to small, temporary camps where only a scattering of shells or stone tools still remain.
Although we have made some incredible discoveries, some of the most exciting include the time we found rare 5,000-year-old shell beads carved in a very distinctive style.
Another time while excavating a village site, we found the remains of camp fires and feasting pits; animal burials; arrow points, stone drills, and grinding stones; and crystals, pigments, pipes, stacked stones, and other ceremonial objects used by religious leaders.