It is necessary to clear a prospective mine site for archaeological evidence before disturbing the earth. This short article is a brief review of a new book that brings insight and perspective to pre-history and its relevance to mining.

I recommend Life on the Dunes - Fishing, Ritual, and Daily Life at Two Late Period Sites on Vizcaino Point - Archaeological Testing at CA-SNI-39 and CA-SNI-162, San Nicolas Island, California. The authors include Brian Fagan whose writings on the Royal Mountain King Mine in California are a model of what a pre-mining archaeology survey can reveal. Other authors are Donn Grenda, David Maxwell (who gave me the book), Angela Keller, and Richard Ciolek-Torello. San Nicolas is one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California; it lies about 120 km southwest of Los Angeles. The archaeology described in the book was not undertaken as a precursor to mining. Rather, work was undertaken because the absence of humans on the island has lead to a massive incursion of sea lions who lumber over old human occupation sites and mess things up; technically the process is called bioturbation.

The story of human habitation of the Channel Islands, and in particular San Nicolas, is well told in this volume. The first inhabitants arrived some 10,000 years ago. A single Mytilus shell dated at 8,400 B.P. attests to humans on San Nicolas. About 5,000 years ago something dramatic happened on the adjacent mainland: the mortar and pestle were introduced, acorn eating began, spear-throwing hunters arrived, and folk began to go tothe islands to gather marine resources. About 3,000 years ago, social systems became more complex, trade expanded, and art arrived in the form of soapstone bowls, shell beads, figurines, and ritual cremations. Much like you find at Laguna Beach today.

The Spanish arrived in the mid 1500s. In 1602, a certain Vizcaino named the island for his favorite saint. Nothing much happened on the island, however, until the British arrived in 1811, and targeted sea otters and Nicolenos. Captain George Nidever took the last remaining island inhabitant, Juana Maria, to Santa Barbara to die in 1853. She spoke Takic, which indicates that she was one of a "relatively recent" group of people to come into Southern California. Some time later the U.S. Navy took over the island and control it today. They sponsored the archaeological work described in the book.

Life on the island cannot have been easy. There are but three fresh water springs, nothing much in the way of animals to hunt, precious little vegetation, and varying marine resources as the climate changed, water temperatures rose and fell, and sea levels rose after the last ice-age. This brief abstract summarizes living conditions:

We unearthed a fishing camp with an associated smokehouse complex, the manufacture of abalone-shell fishhooks, plant processing, fiber working and basket making, shell-bead making and stone tool production, as well as subsistence activities including fishing, marine-mammal and shore-bird hunting, and shell-fish collection.

People lived, worshiped, and died on the island. The book tells of excavating sweat-houses and graves where ritual breakage and tossing of valuable artifacts occurred. Some 1,500 skeletons have been unearthed.

This book induces reflections on climate change, global warming, carbon credits, and the coming weekend activities. This book once again reminds us ofthe long time span of events, the huge climatic changes that have occurred naturally(?), the adaptations that humans make to environmental change,and the way in which we can affect, of fail to effect, change.