News.bytes News.bytes Extra, issue 261

Discovering early humans at Stornetta

tiny flags mark areas where researchers will focus their efforts in the archaeological research at the Stornetta Public LandsClues into the first human occupation on California’s Mendocino Coast are being discovered and recorded through the cooperative efforts of the Bureau of Land Management’s Ukiah Field Office, Sonoma State University and other partners.

BLM Archaeologist Brooke Brown said the university’s Anthropological Studies Center is working with the BLM to complete an archaeological inventory on the 1,132-acre Stornetta Public Lands near Point Arena.

“We are working closely in this research with the Manchester Point Arena Tribe, whose ancestors lived in this coastal area,” Brown said. “We hope to learn more about the first people who lived here, and about historic settlement and historic uses.

“The project is providing an outdoor classroom setting for university students studying archaeology, anthropology and related fields,” Brown said. “We are excited to be providing this learning experience while gaining important knowledge about this part of the California coast.”

Brown said more than 35 people participate in the first field season of work this year.

Below, tiny flags mark areas where researchers will focus their efforts in the archaeological research at the Stornetta Public Lands.
Two archaeologists work among tiny flags that mark areas where they will focus

In their work, the researchers, below, carefully take samples and plot their locations. Artifacts can tell archaeologists when a particular site was used by early people and the kinds of activities that occurred.
Researchers carefully take samples and plot their locations, at a site overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Brown said the research partners hope the work at the Stornetta Public Lands is just the beginning of a long-term research partnership regarding coastal archaeology in Mendocino County. She said the project is exciting for the BLM’s Ukiah Field Office because it is the first opportunity for its archaeologists to study coastline prehistory and history (the lands were transferred into public ownership in 2005).

“We have a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the archaeological record for the California Coast,” she said.

“The University’s Anthropological Studies Center has a very knowledgeable staff and provides great opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, Brown added” She commended ASC field director Mike Newland for his leadership and excellent teaching methods.

Support for the research project has come from the California Coastal Commission and the BLM’s Cultural Resources Program.

The Stornetta Public Lands, a complex of coastal prairies, cypress groves, streams and rugged cliffs, are managed for public access and daytime uses such as hiking and picnicking. Traditional livestock grazing is permitted on part of the public lands, and farming, part of the historic tradition of the Mendocino Coast, continues in some areas through provisions of a conservation easement. The BLM has placed a strong emphasis on protecting habitat and cultural resources.

Overlooking the Mendocino Coast from a bluff at the Stornetta public lands
Exploring a rocky beach area at the Stornetta public lands

The public lands provide great vista points above the estuary where the Garcia River empties into the Pacific, picturesque views of the Point Arena Lighthouse (privately operated) and opportunities to explore an undeveloped part of the coast.

Looking down onto the estuary where the Garcia River empties into the PacificA view from the Stornetta public lands to Point Arena Lighthouse, which is on private land

“We welcome everyone to come and discover this beautiful part of California,” Brown said, “but we also want to stress the importance of protecting natural and cultural resources. It is illegal to remove any of these artifacts, including arrowheads. We ask that people take only pictures and leave the artifacts for others to enjoy as well.”

- B.B. 12/06

BLM California News.bytes, issue 261