Islands Through Time: A Human and Ecological History of California's Northern Channel Islands

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by Todd Braje, Jon Erlandson, and Torben Rick, 2023. Paperback, 216 pages.

California’s Northern Channel Islands are sometimes called the American Galápagos and one of the jewels of the US National Park system. For at least 13,000 years, the Chumash and their ancestors occupied the Northern Channel Islands, leaving behind an archaeological record that is one of the longest and best preserved in the Americas. From ephemeral hunting and gathering camps to densely populated coastal villages and Euro-American and Chinese historical sites, archaeologists have studied the Channel Island environments and material culture records for over 100 years. They have pieced together a fascinating story of initial settlement by mobile hunter-gatherers to the development of one of the world’s most complex hunter-gatherer societies ever recorded, followed by the devastating effects of European contact and settlement.

Islands Through Time is the remarkable story of the human and ecological history of California’s Northern Channel Islands. We weave the tale of how the Chumash and their ancestors shaped and were shaped by their island homes. Their story is one of adaptation to shifting land- and seascapes, growing populations, fluctuating subsistence resources, and the innovation of new technologies, subsistence strategies, and socio-political systems. Islands Through Time demonstrates that to truly understand and preserve the Channel Islands National Park today, archaeology and deep history are critically important. The lessons of history can act as a guide for building sustainable strategies into the future. The resilience of the Chumash and Channel Island ecosystems provides a story of hope for a world increasingly threatened by climate change, declining biodiversity, and geopolitical instability.

About the Author

Dr. Todd Braje is a Professor of Anthropology at San Diego State University specializing in long-term human-environmental interactions, the archaeology of maritime societies, historical ecological approaches to understanding coastal hunter-gatherer-fishers, and the peopling of the New World. Dr. Braje's projects focus on the deep history of maritime migrations and adaptations, human-environmental ecodyamics, and historical ecological approaches to understanding hunter-gatherer-fishers. He maintains field projects in Baja California, mainland coastal California, and the Solomon Islands. The majority of his archaeological field research has been conducted on California’s Northern Channel Islands where he investigates the 13,000 year history of human-environmental interactions and the application of archaeological records to modern resource management and restoration biology.