Island fox research by CSULA team featured in BioScience
Summer field study reveals importance of foxes, dogs to San Nicolas Island natives
Led by Cal State L.A.Âs Anthropology Professor RenÃ© Vellanoweth, a team of CSULA graduate students excavated ritual burials of island foxes and domestic dogs surrounded by hearths, pits and ceremonial artifacts on San Nicolas Island off the southern CaliforniaÂs coast last summer.
This archaeological venture to study the island fox population in an ancient settlement called Tule Creek Village was featured in an article, entitled ÂIsland Fox Paradox,Â published this year in BioScience, volume 60, number 5.
Supported by the Cotsen Grant, the CSULA anthropology majorsÂAmira Ainis, Jennie Allen, Barney Bartelle, Ryan Glenn, Brendon Greenaway, Richard Guttenberg, Fatima Hernandez, Carlos Hsien, Margaret Kaleuati, William Kendig, Rebekka Knierim, and Johanna MartyÂparticipated in the field study through the CSULA Archaeological Field School.
According to Knierim, ÂWitnessing first-hand the care and gentleness that went into the burial of these dogs was quite emotional, and being a part of the excavation was extraordinary.Â
Vellanoweth, who is also the chair of the Anthropology department at Cal State L.A., said, ÂThe prehistoric people of San Nicolas Island revered the island fox, and dogs and foxes played an important role in their lives.Â
RenÃ© Vellanoweth with his pet, Daisy.
He added, ÂBoth played an important role in native ceremonies, and were transported in canoes to the island by native peoples.Â
Bartelle said, ÂExcavating the dogs was beyond expectations because the placement of these dogs in this particular area of Tule Creek Village further confirmed the probability that it was a ceremonial area. Yet, southern California ethnography provides no information connecting dogs to religion.Â
This past summer, the quest continued for remains of foxes and dogs at what is determined to be an earlier archaeological site of San Nicolas Island (dating approximately 4,500 years ago).
In the BioScience article, it also highlighted VellanowethÂs recent work with Torben Rick of the Smithsonian Institute to carbon date several skeletons along with other remains found on the Channel Islands, that were thought to predate human settlement. This study supported their vision of the island fox as Âa human-made species, the descendents of mainland foxes carried to a new land by people.Â
Vellanoweth, who received his Ph.D. in anthropology from University of Oregon, taught at Humboldt State for seven years before coming to Cal State L.A. in 2008. His research focuses on the interaction of past human societies and their coastal environments.
To read the complete article, go to http://sharonlevy.net/PDFs/BioSci%20Channel%20Isl%20Fox.pdf.
- BioScience publication:
- Other articles related to island fox research:
Science at the Smithsonian and
Journal of Archaeological Science
- Cal State L.A.Âs Cotsen Grant:
- Department of Anthropology at Cal State L.A.:
- College of Natural and Social Sciences at Cal State L.A.: