In the mid-nineteenth century, Chinese immigrants to Gold Rush California built the first commercial abalone fishery along North America’s west coast. Their efforts to establish an abalone meat and shell industry have been relegated to a footnote in Californian history, with only occasional newspaper accounts and other historical documents as the primary means to understand the ways of life and the activities of these maritime pioneers. Over the last decade, archaeologists have become increasingly interested in documenting the material record of Chinese abalone fishing on California’s Northern Channel Islands. Here, we describe recent efforts to locate, map, and describe the archaeological record of historical abalone fishing on Santa Rosa Island. Our survey identified a specific island abalone harvesting pattern characterized by small, logistical processing camps and larger more diverse basecamps. Our findings can be applied when interpreting historical abalone fishing sites elsewhere, and to inform future surveys for these island site types.
BentzLindaSchwemmerRobertCasselSusie Lan“The Rise and Fall of the Chinese Fisheries in California.”The Chinese in America: A History from Gold Mountain to the New Millennium2002Walnut Creek, CAAltamira Press140155
BerrymanJudy A.Archival Information, Abalone Shell, Broken Pots, Hearths, and Windbreaks: Clues to Identifying Nineteenth Century California Abalone Collection and Processing Sites, San Clemente Island: A Case Study1995University of California, RiversidePh.D. thesis
BrajeTodd J.CostelloJulia G.ErlandsonJon M.DeLongRobert“Of Seals, Sea Lions, and Abalone: The Archaeology of a Historic Multi-Ethnic Basecamp on San Miguel Island, California.”Historical Archaeology in press2014
BrajeTodd J.ErlandsonJon M.“Measuring Subsistence Specialization: Comparing Historic and Prehistoric Abalone Middens on San Miguel Island, California.”Journal of Anthropological Archaeology200726474485
ChanSuchengStarrKevinOrsiRichard J.“A People of Exceptional Character: Ethnic Diversity, Nativism, and Racism in the California Gold Rush.”Rooted in Barbarous Soil: People Culture and Community in Gold Rush California2000BerkeleyUniversity of California Press4485
CostelloJulia G.RussellJaneStrattonSusanca-cal-1564/H, Locus 4Selkirk Ranch Homestead with Chinese Hearth and Forge: Excavation Report1998Report on file at the Central California Information Center Turlock ca.
JohnsonJohn R.StaffordThomas W.Jr.AjieHenry O.MorrisDon P.BrowneD.R.MitchellK.L.ChaneyH.W.“Arlington Springs Revisited.”Proceedings of the Fifth California Islands Symposium (cd Publication)2002Santa Barbara, CASanta Barbara Museum of Natural History541545