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James A. Bennyhoff

This article originally appeared in Symposium: A New Look at some Old Sites, Papers from the Symposium Organized by Francis A. Riddell, Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for California Archaeology, March 23-26, 1983, San Diego, California. Coyote Press Archives of California Prehistory 6:65-74, 1986.

As the deepest site in the San Francisco Bay Region, the Emeryville site (CA-ALA-309) attracted the attention of amateur collectors as early as 1890. Originally perhaps 40 feet high, the crown of Cone A was leveled in 1876 for a dance pavilion and only 32 feet of depth remained in 1902. All comments herein refer to Cone A, although an even greater extent of the site (Cone B) had been leveled without salvage in 1871 (Schenck 1926:158-162). Located on the north edge of Temescal Creek near its outlet to the Bay, this enormous shellmound was clearly a favored place of residence by hunters and gatherers for almost three millennia.

The first stratigraphic excavations made in California were conducted at this site in 1902 by Max Uhle and J.C. Merriam, as part of the fledgling anthropology program being developed by A. L. Kroeber with the financial support of Phoebe Hearst (Rowe 1954:399-401; Willey and Sabloff 1974: 63-64). A trench and tunnel on the west side revealed ten strata with ten burials confined to the five middle strata. Uhle (1907) proposed three major periods of mound development which, in a very general way, agree with the Early, Middle and Late periods recognized today. In 1908, N.C. Nelson, S.A. Barrett, P.E. Goddard, and A.V. Wepfer, working under the direction of J.C. Merriam, stratigraphically excavated a small but deep shaft in the east side of the mound and found four burials and unassociated artifacts representing both the Middle and Late periods.

When Nelson (1909) completed his survey of bayshore shellmounds in 1908, Emeryville received the number N 309.

Unfortunately, Kroeber (1909) discounted the early proposals of cultural change made by Uhle and Nelson because no major shift in technology or subsistence was evident. While Berkeley students and L.L. Loud, of the museum, continued to excavate local sites, no student was allowed to write his doctoral dissertation on Central California archaeology until 1947.

In 1913, E.W. Gifford (1916) used Emeryville data in his comparative analysis of midden constituents, beginning a field of study since elaborated as the ecological approach.

Even clearer evidence of cultural change was obtained when the upper 22 feet of the Emeryville site were removed by steam shovel in 1924, and three trenches were dug in the basal ten feet of deposit. Over 6300 artifacts and 692 burials were recovered or noted; despite significant loss (especially infant burials). Schenck clearly did an excellent job of salvage under difficult conditions, and his depth data do provide a meaningful record of sequential change when analyzed section by section. In his analysis, however, Schenck (1926) minimized both stratigraphic and cultural differences between the upper and lower deposits and often attributed variations, which he did note, to sampling error. On this basis he challenged virtually every conclusion previously reached by Uhle, Nelson, or Gifford. Schenck also preferred to interpret localized differences to seasonal visitation by diverse groups, some coming from as far away as the San Joaquin Delta. Typological considerations will not support this conclusion today. He also argued that differences between West Berkeley and Stege versus Emeryville were ecological; different groups would go to the northern sites to fish and come to Emeryville to gather shellfish; we now know that these differences were temporal. Recognition of a cultural sequence in Central California was delayed for another 13 years.

In 1929, H. Howard published a detailed analysis of the bird bones found at Emeryville. While not analyzed stratigraphically, the report provides extensive ecological data and evidence in support of year-round occupation.

By 1939, excavations at interior sites had finally established a succession of three prehistoric periods, termed "horizons" by Lillard, Heizer, and Fenenga (1939; Heizer and Fenenga 1939). During the 1940s, Gifford published his studies of California bone (1940) and shell (1947) artifacts. While he accepted the physical stratigraphy which validated the Early Horizon, he used data from Emeryville to challenge the distinction between the Middle ("Transitional") and Late Horizons. Neither his descriptive typologies, which ignored context, nor his simplistic two-part division of the 32-foot-deep site were adequate proof for his denial of cultural difference.

By 1947, R.K. Beardsley had re-examined all the major excavations in the Bay region and had found stratigraphic support for the Middle and Late Horizons on San Francisco Bay. He misjudged the significance of small collections from the West Berkeley, Ellis Landing, and Stege sites and thus failed to distinguish the Early Horizon in the Bay region. Beardsley (1948, 1954) formalized the Central California Taxonomic System which applies the three "horizon" concept, divided into "facies," across a series of "provinces." Grave lots from the Emeryville site were of crucial importance in Beardsley's analysis and he defined two "components" for the site. The upper component was named the Emeryville facies, representing Phase 1 of the Late Horizon, while the deeper component was named the Ellis Landing facies of the Middle Horizon. He did not identify a Phase 2 component.

In 1949, the physiologist S.F. Cook used Emeryville data to evaluate population size and nutrition. During the 1950s, Sheilagh Brooks (personal communication) included the Emeryville skeletal collection in her analysis of Bay region anthropometry and demography. She found little evidence for physical change through time, in contrast to the findings of Newman (1957) at interior sites.

In order to secure charcoal for radiocarbon, the ten foot deep of the Emeryville site was tested in 1958 by A.B. Elsasser and myself, by Elsasser in 1959, and by T. Hester in 1970. While no burials or diagnostic artifacts were found, two radiocarbon dates were obtained from charcoal found near the base of the mound (LJ-199: 360 B.C. ± 220 years; I-7073: 580 B.C. ± 105). A calibrated date of 2700 years B.P. for the first settlement of Emeryville falls slightly closer to the average of 4000 years proposed by Gifford (1916) and Cook (1946), based on volume and dietary calculations, than to the 1000 year age proposed by Schenck (1926) and guessed at by Uhle (1907).

Only six obsidian specimens from Emeryville have been hydrated, of which only three have been sourced. Three specimens from the basal deposit were hydrated by Clark (1964), who destroyed the specimens so they cannot be sourced. These were collected by Elsasser and myself during the 1958/59 test excavations, but Clark (1964:164) has wrongly assigned the two youngest reading to the Late Horizon. All three are unquestionably the Patterson phase (transition between the Early and Middle period). Readings of 2.6 and 2.8 microns (I5138, I5139) must be rejected. The 3.4 micron reading for I548, found at 32 feet below the 1902 surface, agrees with 350 B.C. on the Clark curve and the radiocarbon dates; it would be 50 B.C. according to Ericson (see below). An alternate reading of 4.2 microns would equate with 1025 B.C. on the Clark curve and is too early.

J.E. Ericson (1977:363, 365) sourced and hydrated three points collected by Schenck in 1924 from his deep trenches. The deepest specimen represents the end of the Patterson phase (27' 7" depth) and was made of Mono Glass Mountain obsidian. A reading of 4.7 microns, or 100 B.C., seems a century too late but is acceptable. The other two points were of Napa obsidian from the Castro phase (early Middle period). Despite a two foot depth difference, both yielded readings of 3.4 microns. Ericson's equation of 50 B.C. is acceptable, but a 350 B.C. date provided by the Clark curve is not. R.N. Jack sourced 11 specimens collected by early amateurs which, unfortunately, lack provenience. He misread the catalogue number of one specimen (1-38537 is actually 38357) and hence misassigned an Emeryville point fragment to the Goddard site (CA-NAP-1; serial number 011). Three points of non-local form and eastern obsidian (006 Bodie Hills; 007 Casa Diablo; 010 Bodie Hills) must be questioned because this donated collection also includes pottery. The remaining eight specimens include seven Napa obsidian points (two arrows, five darts) and one Casa Diablo fragment.

Bert Gerow in two recent publications (Gerow 1974; Gerow with Force 1968) has used Gifford's inadequate and incomplete data, along with the many published errors in earlier reports, to again challenge the three horizon concept. Instead, he offers the timeless and amorphous Co-Tradition concept which I find of little value until better documented. I agree that several separate traditions, as opposed to patterns, are discernible in Central California prehistory, but their meaningful definition requires much more information than is now available. For example, I accept Anasazi of the Southwest as a valid tradition because years of intensive study has documented the progressive change of a single culture from simple farmers without pottery to sophisticated town dwellers living in pueblos. I do not accept Woodland or Mississippian of the eastern United States as traditions--these are patterns in which diffused traits, most notably pottery and a religious complex, respectively, altered the lifeway of many different populations. This is why Fredrickson and I chose the term pattern instead of tradition: the Augustine pattern, in large part, represents the variable adoption of an intrusive northern complex-harpoons, collared pipes, grave-pit burning, and ultimately the bow and arrow-by diverse groups long resident in Central California. To define meaningful Central California traditions will require complete and detailed cultural sequences in each of the recognizable districts. At the present time, we approach this situation only for the Alameda and Cosumnes districts, yet we have no agreement on the meaning of our data. Gerow proposes that University Village and lower West Berkeley represent Hokan speakers who gradually "coalesced" into Penutian speakers at some unstated time. I propose that the Stege aspect represents the ancestral Utians, that the Ellis Landing aspect marks the divergence of proto-Costanoan from proto-Miwok (McClure aspect in the Marin district), and that the Emeryville aspect witnessed the differentiation of the eight Costanoan languages. Unfortunately, our Late period collections are still too small to clearly differentiate Karkin Costanoan from Northern Costanoan archaeologically.

More recent excavations at other sites in the Bay region, notably Patterson (Davis and Treganza 1959; Bickel 1981). University Village (Gerow with Force 1968), and West Berkeley (Wallace and Lathrap 1975), have clarified our view of the earlier cultural periods in the Alameda district. Beardsley failed to recognize an Early Horizon occupation of San Francisco Bay because he expected to find something comparable to the Windmiller facies of the interior-a burial complex dominated by ventral extension, a rarity of bone tools, and the occurrence of milling slabs and hand stones. It is now clear, on the basis of shell beads and ornaments, perforated charmstones, projectile points, and radiocarbon dates, that a different culture, and physical type, occupied the Bay region which was contemporary with the Windmiller facies of the interior. This contemporaneous culture, termed the Stege aspect of the Berkeley pattern, is characterized by flexed burial, abundant bone tools, and use of the mortar and pestle. In large part it is ancestral to Beardsley's Middle Horizon. When confronted with similar divergent findings in the North Coast Ranges and the Stockton district, Fredrickson (1974) proposed a new taxonomic system for Central California, in which patterns replaced horizons, districts replaced ill-defined provinces, and aspects with phases replaced facies. I participated in this formulation and will follow it herein.

The Emeryville site remains of key importance in this re-evaluation because it provides the stratigraphic evidence for significant cultural change through some 2500 years of Bay region prehistory. I have been re-analyzing the Emeryville collections off and on since 1949 when I included the fish spears in a typological study (Bennyhoff 1950). Preliminary results were presented in the phase charts which I made in 1972 to accompany the recent synthesis of California archaeology by Elsasser (1978: Figs. 2-6). Whereas Beardsley recognized only two components at Emeryville, it is now possible to define 11 components. I have retained Beardsley's term Emeryville as the aspect name for the Augustine pattern, which includes both Phase 1 and Phase 2. Fernandez was retained as the phase name for Phase 2. Although Emeryville has the largest Phase 1 collection, I used the two alternate names of CA-SFR-7 (Crocker and Bayshore) for early and middle Phase 1, respectively, so as not to repeat Emeryville as both an aspect and a phase name. In the same manner, I retained Ellis Landing as the aspect name for the Middle Horizon (Upper Berkeley pattern), even though the Emeryville site has the best stratigraphic sequence of phases. Since the West Berkeley site provided the clearest evidence for the beginning of the Berkeley pattern, it was felt preferable to name the Early period in the Alameda district the Stege aspect despite the poor documentation for this site. I must emphasize that these names are not permanent. I forsee the possible shift of the Ryan mound (Coberly 1973) to the Diablo district (and the incorporation of the Newark phase of the Alameda district into the Danville phase of the Diablo district) if R. Milliken can produce better evidence from mission records and personal names that this south Bay locality was actually occupied by the Bay Miwok. At present, only the Ryan mound has strong links with the Diablo district. Unfortunately, late Phase 1 in the Alameda district has the weakest data base of any phase.

Beardsley used only 48 burials with clear associations. I can place 111, but this is still far short of the total 706 burials found in the site. (Beardsley [1948: Fig. 3] omitted four burials recovered by Nelson in 1906 and counted a group of seven burials as one.) The most serious problem in analysis is the extreme slope of the cone. Burial depths were recorded from surface but many of Schenck's excavation sections span 15-20 feet elevation. Schenck presented his burial frequency data (which includes burials noted as well as collected so the catalogue of collected burials is not adequate) in the usual layer-cake format so that Middle period burials at one foot depth on the slope may appear above Phase 1 burials at 15 feet in the center of the mound. Localized occupations shifted significantly during the formation of the mound. Until data plane analysis is completed, most burials from the cone without burial association remain unphased so studies of status differences and demography are not yet feasible. I have shortened Beardsley's line of cultural cleavage by two feet to allow for the depth of grave. Component thickness given herein is generally based on the mound center (section 20).

Much of the failure to recognize cultural change in the Bay region resulted from the use of simplistic descriptive typologies. Schenck (1926:214-217) lumped together awls, punches,"fiber-strippers," sweat scrapers, knives and other dissimilar forms as "awls," and obviously found no stratigraphic change. Gifford (1947) lumped shell beads and ornaments together, and distinct types found separately in grave lots were lumped, while variants in the same string were split. Gifford (1940) usually counted only whole specimens of most bone tools.

In contrast, I have attempted to use historical types, based on context and size as well as form. I have made comparative studies of well stratified sites from all over Central California to determine the correct phase sequence because site abandonment is not uncommon. The importance of seriation studies cannot be overemphasized. I have documented the gradual change from Cupped through Thin Lipped and Full Lipped to Large Lipped Olivella beads, providing a refined phase sequence from late Phase 1 to Historic times. Likewise the sequence from Full Saddles through Square Saddles and Sequins to Pendant Olivella beads, when found in quantity as grave lots, allow phasing from intermediate Middle through Phase 1. I emphasize again--grave lots are essential to refined phasing. If the Hotchkiss collection had been reburied in 1950, before my reanalysis, we would still be dealing with Beardsley's Phase 1 as a single component lasting 1200 years by Dating Scheme A or 600 years by Scheme B (Bennyhoff and Hughes n.d.). A single insignificant trait, placement of the perforation on Olivella Thin Rectangular beads, provided the clue to three phases instead of one. Once I arranged the grave lots in stratigraphic order and noted the Rectangular bead sequence (Sequins alone were early, Sequins and Pendants together were middle, Pendants alone were late), a myriad of shell ornaments, pipes, projectile points, and incised bone tubes also revealed stylistic change by phase. Only the Hotchkiss site had the full sequence from early Phase 1 to Historic times in stratigraphic order. Without this large, rich collection, and the complete specimens provided by grave association, it would have been impossible to properly assess the late period phasing of Johnson, Hollister, Emeryville, and similar Late period sites.

To return to Emeryville, we have two major site reports and a basic synthesis, but no agreement. Uhle proposed three components, Schenck insisted there was only one, and Beardsley felt there were two. My reanalysis, possible only because the collection still exists in remarkably good shape, indicates that there were 11 components. The cultural change revealed is not insignificant. While the site occupants did remain hunters and gatherers throughout their history, there were important shifts in the economy and technology, in the weapons used, and particularly in dress and ornament. A Castro phase inhabitant, decked out in Saucer beads and black abalone ornaments, would have seen a Sherwood phase inhabitant, wearing earspools, Saddle bead applique, and red abalone rectangles, as different, even if few past archaeologists did.

In the time available, it will be possible to present only a thumbnail sketch of these changes. Much quantification remains to be done; burials near phase boundaries may be shifted in the future; ground stone and minor artifacts will have to be slighted. There are a myriad of problems awaiting more evaluation. Why were projectile points so rare? Why are so many types still unique to Emeryville? What are the actual functions of the many bone tool types used in the Early and Middle periods? Our analysis has barely begun, but we now have a taxonomic framework which will permit meaningful analysis of such problems. In the following summary, shell bead types are those of Bennyhoff and Hughes (n.d.) while bone artifact types are those of Gifford (1940).

The Emeryville site (cone A) was first occupied ca 500 B.C. according to the two uncorrected radiocarbon dates obtained near the mound base. The Stege aspect (Early period proper) was probably present in cone B, leveled in 1871. There is one blue schist spinner charmstone (no provenience) from cone A which came from the same source as middle Windmiller phase specimens. The basal 4.5 feet of deposit in cone A can be assigned to the Patterson phase based on the occurrence of three perforated charmstones, eight bone "fiber-strippers" (Type C1), and three chipped bone tools. This component represents the transition phase between the Early and Middle periods (500-200 B.C.). A single infant burial lacked associations; burials during this period probably continued to be placed in cone B. The rich bone tool assemblage (with an emphasis on elk) includes varied punches, fiber-strippers, flakers, serrated spined scapulae, spatulae, wedges, bipointed fishhooks(?), pendants, and bird bone tubes and beads. Shell beads are confined to two Olivella Saucers (Type G2a) embedded in asphaltum on a bird bone band, a trait more typical of the Castro phase. Schenck (1926:269) claimed coiled basketry was represented on one baked clay object but Larry Dawson (personal communication) identified it as twined, which agrees with the absence of needle-sharp awls. Net sinkers, a Stege aspect diagnostic when found in quantity, were absent. Only two projectile points can be assigned to the Patterson phase; both were stemmed and shouldered and made of obsidian (Schenck 1926: Pl. 48 b, n). The latter was made of Mono Glass Mountain obsidian with a hydration of 4.7 microns (Ericson 1977:363, no. 295). Uhle (1907) found a high frequency of chert debitage in his deepest layers. Pestles and bowl mortars complete the Patterson assemblage. Gifford (1916) found that the basal layers were dominated by oyster shell (55.5%), followed by mussel (42.0%) and Macoma clam (2.5%).

Grave lots and the controlled excavations of Schenck and Uhle allow some eight feet of deposit to be assigned to the Castro phase (early Middle period; Upper Berkeley pattern), dated elsewhere between 200 B.C. and A.D. 100. Some 45 burials can be assigned to this phase, of which 26 had associated artifacts. Diagnostic shell beads and ornaments include Olivella Saucer (Type G2) and ring (Type G3) beads, abalone ring ornaments, abalone disks with double-line facial incision, and a triangular ornament with punctate decoration; 20% of the ornaments were made of black abalone, a shift from the red abalone favored in the Early period. Bead applique in asphalt occurs on bird bone beads, a slate ring and a quartz crystal. Pigment (especially red ochre) occurred with eight burials. Most bone tool types continue from the Patterson phase with the notable exception of fiber-strippers and chipped bone tools. New types of bone artifacts which appear include atlatl spurs, unbarbed "fish spears," coiled basketry awls, flat "knives," sweat scrapers, and bird bone whistles. One shouldered charmstone (Uhle 1907: Pl. 10, 9) is present. Chipped stone is represented by seven obsidian and four chert specimens. The obsidian points emphasize leaf-shaped variants (Schenck 1926: Pl. 48m), including one scalloped Excelsior spear point (Pl. 48j). Napa obsidian is represented by two specimens, both of which yielded hydration values of 3.4 microns (Ericson 1977:365, nos. 339, 340; the shallower fragment is illustrated by Schenck 1926: Pl. 48L). The four chert points include three spear points with sloping shoulders (Schenck 1926: Pl. 48k) and a stemmed dart point (or handled scraper--Pl. 48q, upside down). Warfare is clearly indicated by a group burial of four males (one adolescent), two of which had obsidian tips still embedded in their bones (the single wound in one burial had healed). Two other groups of seven bodies each were associated with burned timbers and ash which may reflect house-burning during warfare; one of the groups might represent cremation.

The later components are more difficult to analyze because most of the data were salvaged as the steam shovel cut the mound away in sections 22 feet high. Fewer burials were noted in situ and very few unassociated artifacts have recorded depths. Nonetheless, the available data do suggest the existence of nine later components.

The Alvarado phase is represented by five burials with diagnostic associations, spanning 2.5 feet of deposit. This intermediate phase of the Middle period is placed between A.D. 100-300. A cultural decline is suggested, and most burials of this phase at other sites lacked associated artifacts. Diagnostic shell beads include Olivella Full Saddle beads (Type F2a) and Split Amorphous (Type C7) beads. The highest frequency (50%) of black abalone ornaments occurs in this phase, including a trianguloid gorget form. The first fishtail and plummet charmstones appear, as well as mica ornaments. Ulna tools disappear but cannon bone awls, rib tools, and wedges continue, along with serrated scapulae, red ochre and quartz crystals.

The Sherwood phase (Late Middle period, A.D. 300-500) is represented by 21 burials which span 2.5 feet of deposit in the center, but span four feet at the southwest edge. Diagnostic traits include the occurrence of both Olivella Oval Saddle (Type F2b) and Square Saddle (Type F3a) beads in the same grave, along with many unperforated rectangular abalone ornaments backed with asphalt. The shift back to red abalone occurs in this phase. The three projectile points (two bipointed; Schenck 1926: Pl. 48d-f) are all obsidian. Bird bone whistles are prominent, along with bone awls, spatulae, pins, sting ray spines, and a ground beaver tooth. The first earplug (Schenck 1926: Pl. 52g) appears as well as a single stone net sinker. Plummet charmstones and mica ornaments continue.

There is no evidence at Emeryville for the Meganos intrusion from the Diablo district into the northern Alameda district during this phase. Late in the Sherwood phase the Meganos people moved down San Pablo Creek to the El Sobrante site, forcing the abandonment of the Sherwood site. Ventrally extended burials of the Sherwood phase are found above flexed burials of the Alvarado phase at the El Sobrante site and a non-midden cemetery of ventrally extended burials at CA-CCO-2 near the now abandoned Fernandez site document this intrusion. Influence from these intruders is reflected in two extended burials at the Ellis Landing site and the ceremonial white chert points which were traded south to the West Berkeley site. The extreme linguistic difference between the Huchium and Karkin Costanoan languages probably results from this Meganos intrusion, when the ancestral Karkin were forced to abandon the Fernandez site and move north of Carquinez Strait, to be followed by 400 years of separation from their linguistic relatives.

The Sobrante phase (terminal Middle period; A.D. 500-700) is represented by eight burials which span three feet of deposit at Emeryville. Marker traits for this phase include the occurrence of Haliotis Type 4 beads and Olivella Square Saddle beads (without Full or Oval Saddle beads). Mica ornaments continue. Barbed fish spears make their first appearance, as do perforated antler tip pendants. An alabaster cloud blower with Olivella Saucer bead applique and one net sinker were also found. A significant economic shift, evident at various Bay region sites in addition to Emeryville, occurred during this phase, when digging for clams became more important than gathering mussels. While sedimentation was certainly involved (Bickel 1978), the suddenness of the shift (visible stratigraphically), its occurrence at many sites in this same phase, and the location of these sites near fault lines all indicate that subsidence caused by a major earthquake may have been more important than sedimentation or over-exploitation.

The transition phase between the Berkeley and Augustine patterns (Middle to Late periods, A.D. 700-900) is represented by six burials at the Emeryville site. Termed the Ponce phase, it has been assigned a depth of one foot at the center, but two feet in other localized sections. Separation from the following Crocker phase is difficult because none of the diagnostic Middle bone tool types were placed with these six burials and no diagnostic Olivella Split Punched beads were found. Only one burial had the normal mixture of Middle period Olivella Square Saddle beads (Type F3) and Late period Sequin beads (Type M1). Two other burials had diagnostic incipient piled plummet charmstones, associated with two tubular smoking pipe fragments and a killed, flat-based "show mortar." Diagnostic multiperforated cut-disk abalone ornaments also occur. Many cultural continuities which derive from the Berkeley pattern (shaped mortars, piled plummet charmstones, serrated scapulae) and the rejection of certain diagnostic Augustine pattern traits (gravepit burning, harpoons, perforated discoidals) support the hypothesis that the population of most of the Alameda district remained ancestral Costanoan during this transition.

There is little evidence at Emeryville for the disrupted settlement which characterizes the interior and northern districts at this time. Cultural discontinuities and site abandonment support the hypothesis that the intrusion of the ancestral Patwin into the Solano district, bringing basic traits of the Augustine pattern, forced the movement of the ancestral Bay Miwok from the Solano district southward into the Diablo district. The resident Meganos people were forced out of the Walnut Creek Valley. At the same time the ancestral Karkin Costanoan moved south of Carquinez Strait to reoccupy the Fernandez site; the adjacent Meganos site CA-CCO-2, as well as El Sobrante, were abandoned, and the Meganos people were forced back into their ancestral Stockton district. The success of this Patwin intrusion was largely due to a new weapon-the bow and arrow --but the older dart and atlatl was not replaced locally until middle Phase 1 times.


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