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Antelope Valley Indian Peoples

Initial Settlers and the Subsequent Archaic Period

(Text that appears in red indicates basic characteristics of the various culture periods. Text in blue denotes important additional details.)

Lakeshore Life

As the Ice Age ended, great lakes covered large portions of the valley.

Lake Mojave series projectile point
Lake Mojave Series circa 8,000-7,000 to 6,000 BCE

Lake Mojave point

Silver Lake projectile point
Archaeological evidence reveals that from around 8,000 to 6,000 BCE, many people camped around the shores of these lakes. Groundstone implements used for processing plant materials found on these ancient lake terrace sites indicate increased dependence on plants as food sources. However, hunting remained important. Changes in projectile point shapes, sizes, weights, and hafting methods signify technological changes in weaponry.

These early settlers of the Antelope Valley hunted faster and smaller "modern" species such as deer and antelope, along with small mammals, fish, and water fowl. There has long been speculation that these lake terrace inhabitants, who formed the earliest "settlements" (long-term camps) in California and the western Great Basin, may have been from, or ancestral to, the Hokan linguistic family. (Present-day Hokan speakers include such groups as the Chumash, Washoe, southern California Yuman groups, and Pomo peoples.)

The Climate Becomes Warmer and Dryer

During a lengthy period beginning around 5,000 BCE, an episode of intense climatic warming was responsible for major changes in human settlement patterns and lifeways. The large lakes dried up and their associated resources were gone. Inhabitants were forced to seek living sites near dependable water sources—springs, streams, or small, isolated lakes. Larger groups began to establish more permanent settlements near these less abundant water supplies, while foraging for food (both plant and animal) in wide areas around these semi-permanent dwelling sites. Temporary campsites were used for long-distance hunting and gathering forays, while the larger residential sites were moved only when more promising dwelling locations were found.

Pinto Series circa 5,000 to 2,000 BCE

Archers, Little Petroglyph Canyon
Plant processing continued to increase in importance in everyday life. The prominence of dart points (as opposed to the larger spear points of previous periods) implies both improved hunting technology and expanded variety in animal species hunted. As settlement patterns became more sedentary, evidence of more complex social and religious patterns began to emerge, including rock art related to belief systems.

By 4,000 years ago, (around 2,000 BCE) people of the western Great Basin were skilled in hunting and gathering strategies known as "seasonal rounds." During any given year, groups would travel from permanent or semi-permanent (winter) villages to temporary locations (or higher elevation summer villages) to collect seasonally available plant and animal food supplies. Perhaps as early as 1500 BCE, the acorn, obtained from oak species in foothill canyons, had become the major dietary staple in the Antelope Valley and other western Mojave Desert areas, as well as in most of the Californian region. Seasonal subsistence techniques remained in place in the Great Basin and California throughout the remaining prehistoric and proto-historic periods.

From 2,000 BCE to CE 400/500, hunting weaponry took on distinctive characteristics. Stone projectile points for both darts and spears were carefully and beautifully flaked from a wide variety of materials in a considerable range of shapes. Among the most distinctive of these are the "Elko Series" types. In addition to these more diagnostic forms, classic lanceolate ("leaf" shaped) points (from earlier origins ) were also prominent. Obsidian seems to have been a material of choice.

Elko Series projectile points, circa 2,000 BCE to CE 500
Elko point

During this period, the mountain sheep was one of the animals of major significance. Hunting camps, dating to from 4,000 to 5,000 years ago and bearing mountain sheep remains, have been discovered at a variety of mountain elevations (some as high as almost 13,000 feet above sea level). Many prehistoric rock art sites in vicinities near Antelope Valley dramatically emphasize mountain sheep figures and motifs. Although it is generally accepted that these rock art expressions are ceremonially linked to mountain sheep hunting cultures, researchers are in disagreement regarding specific or intended meaning[s] of the images.

Major Trade Routes

It is important to note that lifeways in Antelope Valley may have differed in some respects from the classic Great Basin culture models, due to two specific geographic characteristics: (1) the Antelope Valley provides a natural access corridor that linked the California coast with early trails that extended south to Mexico, north into California's Central Valley, and east as far as the Southwest culture region. (2) The Antelope Valley had an abundance of natural springs. This fortuitous combination resulted in the flourishing of major trade and interaction routes through the Antelope Valley as early as at least 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. Consequently, a number of sizeable permanent villages persisted over several millennia, because the Antelope Valley residents could take advantage of both coastal and desert resources and adaptation. (Indeed they may have become somewhat affluent "facilitators" in the extensive trade networking system during that time.)

Eastgate/Rose Springs Series projectile points, circa CE 500 to 800/900

Rose Springs point

By approximately CE 400 to 500, Antelope Valley residents were more dependent upon gathering than hunting. However, hunting itself had been revolutionized by the introduction of bow and arrow technology, which largely (although not totally) replaced the use of spears and darts. Markedly smaller projectile points (such as the Eastgate/Rose Springs types) were clearly the dominant missiles from circa CE 500 through CE 800/ 900. The abundance and variety of stone implements in general, along with food remains from archaeological sites dating to this period, attest to intensive processing of both plant and animal resources.

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Antelope Valley Indian Peoples
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