Monday, March 14, 2011

Pacific Interlude

Two quick historical notes from the Pacific coast of North America:

First, an article in Science (summarized in the March 8, 2011 issue of the New York Times) reports on archaeological findings at three 12,000-year-old sites on the Channel Islands of California. The sites contained numerous "delicate" projectile points, used for a variety of marine-oriented subsistence activities: catching fish and shellfish and hunting seals and waterfowl. The most startling feature of the sites was their age: they were contemporaneous with the Clovis culture, and provide further evidence that some of the earliest human settlers of the Americas were mariners who migrated into the hemisphere via the Pacific Coast.

Second, via, an interesting observation about historical earthquakes in the Pacific. I found it neat that one can so precisely date a major earthquake off the Oregon coast in the era before European contact, based on the simple combination of radiocarbon dating of destroyed trees and plant life, and the known impact date of a tsunami that crossed the Pacific and hit Japan the following day (27 January 1700). I must confess I also didn't know how recently Mount Hood had erupted: there was apparently a major eruption in 1805, right before Lewis and Clark arrived in the Columbia Valley.

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