Red abalone collecting and marine water temperature during the Middle Holocene occupation of Santa Cruz Island, California Academic Article uri icon


  • Oxygen isotope values derived from prehistoric mussel (Mytilus californianus) shell calcite are used to determine whether sea-surface temperatures in the vicinity of the Punta Arena site (CA-SCRI-109) on Santa Cruz Island, California, were cooler than present between 6300 and 5300 cal BP. This site and others in the western sector of the island dating to this period are distinctive because of the presence of large red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) shells, a species that historically has been subtidal around Santa Cruz and the other northern Channel Islands. Comparison of temperature values derived from archaeological shells with those from modern mussel shells, along with water temperatures derived from satellites, indicates that waters were cooler during the 6300 to 5300 cal BP period. These results are consistent with a previous study and support the interpretation that collection of red abalone during the 6300-5300 cal BP period was partly the result of cooler water temperatures that made this large mollusk more available to foragers in the intertidal or shallow subtidal zone. 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Archaeological Science

author list (cited authors)

  • Glassow, M. A., Thakar, H. B., & Kennett, D. J.

citation count

  • 30

complete list of authors

  • Glassow, Michael A||Thakar, HB||Kennett, Douglas J

publication date

  • July 2012