Masters Thesis

Archaeological investigations at the Oak Flat Site (CA-SBA-3931) Santa Barbara County, California

The region occupied by the Chumash of south-central California were divided into sub-groups who occupied different territories and spoke separate, but related languages. The Cuyama sub-group occupied the Cuyama Valley and the surrounding hills and mountains. Branch Canyon leads roughly south from Cuyama Valley and is known to contain prehistoric archaeological sites. The site chosen for this investigation was not previously recorded, but is a large, level area where many artifacts have been found. The area is covered with little other than wildflowers and grasses, but broken groundstone is visible, and an extensive looter’s hole exists, which suggests a possible prehistoric habitation site. Local residents have recovered many artifacts here, including glass beads, indicating occupation during the historic era. The base of a large, square rock feature overlays the prehistoric site. Very little archaeological exploration has been carried out in Cuyama Valley and its surrounding environs. Few site records exist for the valley, although many sites have been recorded for the southern canyons and the potreros at the top of the Sierra Madre Range. However, little information exists beyond site records. Consequently, the prehistory of the Cuyama area is not well understood. This thesis presents the results of excavations at CA-SBA-3931 (Oak Flat). The excavations were undertaken to determine aspects of the lifestyle of the people who occupied it. Additionally, the rock feature will be examined to determine its possible association with later Mexican land grant herding activities. The variety of artifacts and features indicated many activities over a period of time. Oak Flat was more than an overnight camp, although it could certainly have been used as such. However, it was too small to have been a self-sustaining village. The most likely scenario appears to be an extended-stay harvest camp apparently occupied between the mid-1300s A.D. and late 1600s to early-to-late 1700s. There was evidence of trade with other groups from the east and the west, as well as food-processing equipment and tool-making.

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