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Eel Point (California)


Sea Lion off Santa Barbara Island, California

Sea Lion off Santa Barbara Island, California

Ed Bierman

The Eel Point site is located on San Clemente Island, a Channel Island located off the California coast. Eel Point is one of several sites archaeologists consider part of the California Paleo-Coastal tradition, with evidence for use of boats by Paleoindians. Other paleocoastal sites include Arlington Springs and Daisy Cave.

The site is primarily a large shell midden, measuring about 2 ha at its base and about 3.5 meters thick. Archaeological evidence suggests the site was first occupied about 6550 BC (8200 calendar years ago), when Paleoindian hunter-gatherers built houses, dug storage pits and hearths and worked shell, bone and stone into tools and decorative objects. Occupation continued up until Spanish contact, and probably represents reoccupied residential bases, accessed by water craft from the mainland.

Fauna recovered from the site indicate that sea lion, harbor seals, and dolphin made up most of the earliest food sources. Later occupations began to rely heavily on shellfish, accounting for the build up of shell. A microblade tradition is noted among the tools which also include several artifacts associated with canoe construction, including asphalt, sandstone abraders, woodworking tools and so-called 'canoe drills', triangular pointed objects similar to those used by historic period Chumash maritime people.

Eel Point was first excavated by Marshall McKusick and Claude Warren in 1958, and more recently and fully by a team directed by Mark Raab and Andrew Yatsko.


This glossary entry is a part of the About.com guide to Preclovis, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

See the project website for more information on Eel Point.

Cassidy, J., L. M. Raab, and N. A. Kononeko 2004 Boats, Bones, and Bifaces: The Early Holocene Mariners of Eel Point, San Clemente Island, California. American Antiquity 69(1):109-130.

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