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The Prehistoric Spindrift Site: La Jolla, California

Occupied nearly continuously for close to 9,000 years, faunal remains from this village reflect a diverse range of subsistence strategies and adaptations associated with environmental change along the Pacific coast throughout the Holocene. Seasonality data reflect year-round occupation. Preliminary analysis has revealed over 65 species of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians, five of which have been locally extirpated. Read more.


Radio-Ulna of the California Red-legged Frog (Rana aurora draytonii)



Tibiotarsus of the Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus)


Archaeological calcaneii and proximally fusing humerus, in comparison to a modern hind foot and humerus of the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

The Historic site of La Casa de Bandini/Cosmopolitan
Hotel: Old Town, San Diego

Initially the Bandini family adobe and general store, the building was sold in 1867 to stagecoach operator Albert L. Seeley and renovated as the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Analysis includes species identifications, NISP, MNI, skeletal representation, age profiles, butchering, and documentation of taphonomic processes. These data sets reveal post-depositional processes affecting the integrity of the faunal assemblage and provide insights regarding the accessibility of meat resources and relative proportions consumed, ethnic traditions, and economic status. The data are key for documenting the site's transition from a Mexican pueblo to an American town.


Chicken (Gallus gallus) carpometacarpus from Room 104



Sawn, lumbar vertebrae (T-bone steak cut) from a large mammal, most certainly cow (Bos taurus)



Sawn, lumbar vertebrae (T-bone steak cut) from a large mammal, most certainly cow (Bos taurus)

CA-VEN-167, CA-VEN-1691, WSMOP (Ventura County)

The sites were excavated by Dr. Colleen Delaney-Rivera, CSU Channel Islands. A subsample of zooarchaeological remains from three prehistoric sites in coastal Ventura County was analyzed at the San Diego Zooarchaeology Lab. CA-VEN-167 yielded Brush Rabbit, California Ground Squirrel, Pocket Gopher, Mule Deer, Guadalupe Fur Seal, Cormorant (probably Brandt’s), and California Sheephead fish. Most notable is the presence of Guadalupe Fur Seal remains, including a butchered lower limb bone. Considered extinct by the 1950’s, these large, meat-bearing animals were abundant on the west coast of California and Baja California Sur prior to European contact. CA-VEN-1691 produced Desert Cottontail, California Ground Squirrel, Pocket Gopher, Mule Deer, Common Dolphin, and Pacific Loon. Site WSMOP (Western Santa Monica Mountains Oxnard Plain) species included Desert Cottontail, California Ground Squirrel, Dulzura Kangaroo Rat, American Badger, Coyote, and intrusive domesticated Sheep or Goat.


Warners Ranch and Carrillo Ranch House

Recent excavations of the historic sites of Warner’s Ranch (1845-1851) and Carrillo Ranch House (1857-1935) were directed by Stephen Van Wormer and Susan Walter. Zooarchaeological analysis of Warner’s Ranch yielded 81% cattle bones, 16% sheep/goats and a small number of chicken, horse and redhead duck (Aythya Americana) remains. Analysis of butchery practices showed common use of cleaver and merely two sawed specimens.

Zooarchaeological finds from the Carrillo Ranch House are more diverse with 44% sheep/goats, 27% cattle, 15% chicken and turkey, 5% rabbits and a relatively large variety of wild birds such as the Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), American wigeon (Anas Americana), Greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) and White-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica). Butchery analysis indicated a high proportion of saw marks compared to cleave 


Cleaved cattle ribs from Warner’s Ranch



Sawn cattle limb bones from Carrillo Ranch House


Unit 2 at the Prehistoric Little Sycamore Site (VEN-1)

Excavation of Unit 2 at the prehistoric Little Sycamore site (VEN-1) in Ventura Country was carried out by California State Parks under the direction of Herb Dallas, Jr. The zooarchaeological study yielded an identification of 10 mammal species including, among others, Black-tailed Deer ( Odocoileus hemionus ), Fur Seal ( Otariidae ), Western Gray Squirrel ( Sciurus griseus ) and two rabbit species. The bird bones are represented by 8 species including, among others, Sooty Shearwater ( Puffinus griseus ), Common Murre (Uria aalge californica) and the extinct Flightless Sea Duck ( Chendytes lawi ). A Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) radius from Level 140-150cm bore cut marks. The fish bones are represented by 38 species including, among others, California Sheephead ( Semicossyphus pulcher ), Senorita ( Oxyjulis californica ), Cabezon ( Scorpaenichthys marmoratus ) and Pacific Mackerel  (Scomber japonicas ). 


Cut marks on Pacific Loon distal radius



Extinct Flightless Sea Duck burned distal femur



Small Mammal remains from Level 120-130cm. a-b: Agile Kangaroo Rat calcaneii; c: Calif. Ground Squirrel astragalus;
d: Dusky-footed Wood Rat astragalus 

North Ocean Beach Gateway

Excavation of North Ocean Beach Gateway site (CA-SDI-46), dating 3900-3500 YBP, was carried out by Laguna Mountain Environmental Inc. The zooarchaeological study yielded an identification of 15 mammal, 8 avian, 2 reptile and 23 fish and shark species. Leporids (hares and rabbits), Pocket Gophers, Ground Squirrels and Deer are most common among mammals. Digested, burnt and gnawed gopher bones clearly indicate that some of the Gophers were culturally derived and consumed for food. The bird bone assemblage include, among others, Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and Xantus's Murrelet (Synthliboramphus hypoleucus). The fish and sharks bone assemblage is predominated by Califorina Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher), Shovelnose Guitarfish (Rhinobatos productus), Round Stingray (Urolophus halleri), and Bat Ray (Myliobatis californica). Otolith seasonality analysis strongly suggests SDI-46 was occupied during the summer season.



Bone Awl from Level 50-60 cm



Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) Burnt Distal Metatarsal from Level 80-90 cm



Digested Bones from Level 110-120 cm. Left-Botta's Pocket Gopher Ulna; Middle- Calif. Ground Squirrel Radius; Right- Dusky-footed Wood Rat Humerus



Ray/Shark (Chondrichthyes) Vertebrae from Level 70-80cm


University House Site (SDM-W-12)

Excavation of University House Site (SDM-W-12), dating 10,000-6,000 YBP, was carried out by ASM Affiliates, Inc. A sub-sample (n=2,132) of the bone assemblage yielded identification of 11 mammal, 1 avian, 2 reptile, and 19 fish and shark species. The zooarchaeological study points to low species diversity with heavy exploitation of a small number of species— leporids (rabbits and hares) among the terrestrial mammals and off-shore species (Herrings, Skipjack Tuna, and Pacific Mackerel) among the marine fauna. The high frequency of pelagic species suggests the use of water crafts. Digested bones indicate that small mammals were consumed with pulverized bones.


Weathered Woodrat (Neotoma sp.; Left specimen) and Digested Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus; Right specimen) humeri from Level 160-170 cm


Rattlesnake (Crotalus sp; left and larger specimen.) and most likely Gopher Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) Vertebrae from Unit 2, Level 140-150cm


Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) Left and Right Mandibles from Unit 1, Level 60-70cm

Hotel Circle South site (SDI-18995)

Excavation of Hotel Circle South site (SDI-18995), dating circa 2,000YBP, was carried out by Laguna Mountain Environmental Inc. The bone assemblage, recovered from 3 units (0-190cm) and 17 trenches, yielded 11 species of bony and cartilaginous fish such as California Sheephead, Shovelnose Guitarfish and Bat Stingray; 3 reptiles including Rattlesnake and Pacific Pond Turtle, 3 birds including Lesser Scaup and California Quail; and 14 mammals including Mule Deer, Rabbits, Gophers, Woodrats and Kangaroorats. Fish bones and most of the burnt and digested bones appear in levels deeper than 50cm indicating that levels 0-50cm may have been disturbed or deposited after the site was abandoned. Evidence for Ethno-historic (Pig, Red Junglefowl) and fossil fauna (shark teeth) support this notion.


Burnt archaeological tooth of Cowshark (cf. Hexanchidae)



Fossil shark tooth



Worn upper premolar of an old Mule Deer (ca. 10 y/o)



Digested Dulzura Kangaroo Rat femora


Site 11GE20, Lower Illinois River Valley

Vertebrate remains recovered from 3 pit features in southern Illinois by Dr. Colleen Rivera-Delaney (CSUCI) reflect consumption of avian, terrestrial, and aquatic species. Features 2 and 4 date to the Audrey Phase of the Middle Mississippian Period. Feature 9 dates to the White Hall Phase of the early Late Woodland Period. The ratio of bone weight to meat weight suggests White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was the predominant food source in each feature. 

In addition to deer, Feature 2 included American Coot (Fulica americana), Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), and Common Moorehen (Gallinula chloropus) specimens, the latter indicating summer use of the site. Feature 4 included a minimum of 2 raccoons and 3 deer. The deer ranged in age from 2 to 6½ years, with nearly all meat-bearing skeletal elements represented. Remains of a small diving duck (Aythya sp.) were also recovered, as were a number of unidentified fish bones. Raccoon, bird, and fish remains were also recovered from Feature 9.


Left Carpometacarpus of Common Moorehen from Feature 2



Right Mandible of Raccoon from Feature 4


Site 45WH525 Whatcom County, Washington State

A small assemblage of highly fragmented vertebrate remains was recovered during 2012 excavations conducted by ASM Affiliates for the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. The sample was recovered from 0-80cm within a shell midden situated in northern Puget Sound.

In addition to shellfish, site inhabitants consumed a variety of mammals ranging in size from Rabbit to Raccoon, and Deer to Elk. They also exploited sea birds, salmon and shark. Cut marks and spiral fractures on Elk-size limb fragments reflect meat removal and marrow extraction. Seasonality data from an Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) from Unit 1 at 20-30cm, and a Mews Gull (Larus canus) from Unit 2 at 70-80cm reflect winter activity at the site.


Right Proximal Ulna of Eared Grebe


Right Proximal Carpometacarpus of Mews Gull

Prehistoric Village of Ystagua

Excavations at the prehistoric village of Ystagua (Sorrento Valley) yielded over 30,000 animal bones. Over a 100 vertebrate taxa were identified including 30 mammalian, 28 avian, eight reptilian, two amphibian and 37 fish species. Leporidae (Hares and Rabbits) comprise 77% of the small mammals followed by gophers and woodrats. Mule Deer is the most abundant among the large mammals followed by Coyotes, Bobcats, Sea Otters, Fur Seals and Sea Lions. The avian remains include California Quail, Red-tailed Hawk, Pacific Loon, Scaups and two Albatross species. Reptilian remains include Rattlesnake, Gopher Snake, Horned Lizard, Pond and Sea Turtles. Clupeids (Sardine/Herring) are the most abundant among the fish followed by Senorita, Mackerel, Sheephead and Shovelnose Guitarfish. A remarkable number of butchered and hacked bones (n=32) and worked bones (n=50) was also studied. The high diversity of animal species points to a year-round settlement. It reflects a broad-spectrum subsistence strategy, which utilized a wide array of habitats including marine and fresh water environments, estuaries and lagoons, and woodlands, brushlands and grasslands.