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First Coastal Californians

Edited by Lynn H. Gamble

Some of the most complex hunter-gatherer societies on earth flourished along California’s rugged coastline, and this volume brings together an impressive group of experts to tell a story wrought in shell mounds, ancient fishhooks, buried villages, and rock paintings. Every Native group along the California coast interacted with neighbors near and far, and such interactions, especially trade, are among the central themes of this book. Their pattern of life might have continued indefinitely had it not been for the “cultural earthquake” of European exploration and settlement; however, the story of the these Native groups remains one of brilliant adaptations to intensely challenging physical and social environments, a powerful reminder of the resilience and continuity of California’s first people.

2015. 160 pp., figures, maps, color plates, index, 8.5 x 11

Contributors: Jeffrey H. Altschul, Richard Ciolek-Torello, Julia G. Costello, Rob Q. Cuthrell, John G. Douglass, Jon M. Erlandson, Lynn H. Gamble, Michael A. Glassow, Donn R. Grenda, William Hyder, Mark G. Hylkema, John R. Johnson, Terry L. Jones, Matthew Des Lauriers, Georgia Lee, Kent G. Lightfoot, Edward M. Luby, Patricia Masters, Jennifer E. Perry, Judith F. Porcasi, Seetha N. Reddy, Torben C. Rick, Matthew A. Russell, Tsim D. Schneider, Chuck J. Striplen, Heather B. Thakar, René L. Vellanoweth, Linda Yamane

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“Gamble has pulled together an all-star cast of archaeologists, ethnohistorians, and Native American scholars and challenged them to provide an easy-to-read overview of California Indian life over the last thirteen thousand years. The result is remarkable. Easily understood by the general reader and beautifully illustrated, the volume will capture the imagination and demonstrates the resilience of California Indians in the past and present.”
—Douglas J. Kennett, Penn State University

“This book is an extraordinarily beautiful, state-of-the-art, authoritative, and gloriously and imaginatively illustrated account of Indigenous coastal peoples of California from the earliest archaeological evidence to the present day. All 17 essays, each shorter than ten pages, are successfully written for a broad constituency of readers, including students, Native Californians, general readers, and archaeologists. The collection begins with a one-page chronology of coastal California Indian history, followed by a map of all Native California language groups at the time of European contact and a masterful lead essay by editor Gamble (Univ. of California at Santa Barbara) on ‘Thirteen Thousand Years on the Coast.’ Abundant new research by Gamble and others, including Kent Lightfoot (Univ. of California at Berkeley; ‘Managing the Land with Fire’ and ‘Shell Mound Builders of San Francisco Bay’), gives cutting-edge perspectives on California prehistory. With its well-selected illustrations and list of selected readings, the book is a stunning gift to general readers and a clarion testimony to the high quality of current scholarship on the Indigenous peoples of coastal California.”
—W. S. Simmons, Brown University

First Coastal Californians is written for the general public, and it is richly illustrated with black and white and color photographs, maps, and original drawings. The ninth volume in an excellent series on early Americans, it is a wonderful introduction to one of America’s most interesting and complex native cultures.”
—Mark Michel, American Archaeology, Summer 2016

“It is hard to put together a book that is both accessible to the public yet of scholarly interest to practicing archaeologists. In First Coastal Californians, Lynn Gamble and the various chapter contributors have certainly succeeded in this task. Although readers who have been following the archaeological literature in California will be familiar with many of the themes presented, the chapters present informative and up-to-date summaries of a wide range of important subjects that should be of interest to any archaeologist working with hunter-gatherer populations or coastal environments. Most importantly, this volume makes California coastal archaeology both exciting and accessible to a wide range of both specialists and non-specialists. Hopefully, this book will allow many different readers to gain a deeper insight into and appreciation for California’s fascinating archaeological past and rich indigenous present.”
—Mikael Fauvelle, Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 36, no. 2 (2016)

“This volume provides a general audience with a clear and compelling view of the region’s 13,000-year history that will educate and fascinate readers. . . . As a whole, this book provides an impressive synthesis of scientific results, presented in language and format suitable for an educated lay audience. Arresting color plates give the reader a real sense of the history, and the ongoing vibrant cultures of the first coastal Californians. This book has certainly succeeded in its goal of bringing the rich past of coastal California to a format suitable for the public. All the contributors should be lauded for their efforts.”
—Brian F. Codding, University of Utah, Journal of Anthropological Research, Summer 2017


Foreword, Brian Fagan

  1. Thirteen Thousand Years on the Coast
    Lynn H. Gamble
  2. The Kelp Highway and the First Californians
    Jon M. Erlandson and Torben C. Rick
  3. Paradise Found…and Lost … on the Changing California Coast
    Patricia Masters and Judith F. Porcasi
  4. Managing the Land with Fire
    Kent G. Lightfoot, Rob Q. Cuthrell, Chuck J. Striplen, and Mark G. Hylkema
  5. Watercraft in Coastal California
    Matthew Des Lauriers
  6. Shell Mound Builders of San Francisco Bay
    Kent G. Lightfoot, Edward M. Luby, Matthew A. Russell, and Tsim D. Schneider
  7. Steinbeck Country before Steinbeck
    Terry L. Jones
  8. Ten Thousand Years on the Northern Channel Islands
    Jennifer E. Perry, Michael A. Glassow, Torben C. Rick, and Jon M. Erlandson
  9. People of the Ballona
    John G. Douglass, Jeffrey H. Altschul, Donn R. Grenda, Seetha N. Reddy, and Richard Ciolek-Torello
  10. California Indian Chiefs and Other Elites
    Lynn H. Gamble
  11. Religions and Rituals of Native Coastal California
    Heather B. Thakar and Lynn H. Gamble
  12. Shell Beads as Adornment and Money
    Lynn H. Gamble
  13. Chumash Paintings on Stone
    William Hyder and Georgia Lee
  14. Colonization’s Cultural Earthquake
    Julia G. Costello and John R. Johnson
  15. Rebellions, Resistance, and Runaways in Colonial Times
    Tsim D. Schneider
  16. Rising Seas, Coastal Erosion, and Archaeological Discovery
    Jon M. Erlandson and René L. Vellanoweth
  17. Weaving the Past into the Present
    Linda Yamane

Suggested Reading
About the Authors
Picture Credits
Color plates follow p. 36

There are no working papers for this book at the present time.