Mound Building by California Hunter-Gatherers

Kent G. Lightfoot and Edward M. Luby

in The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195380118
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Mound Building by California Hunter-Gatherers

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  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology of North America



There is excellent evidence for mound construction by nonagrarian groups who fabricated a diverse range of landscape features, including shell mounds, earthen mounds, sand mounds, and concentric or semiconcentric shell rings, dating 7,000 to 3,000 years ago in the American Midwest, American Southeast, and California. The mounded landscapes produced by hunter-gatherers in North America varied tremendously in their scale, architectural features, spatial layouts, methods, and timing of construction, as well as their associated cultural remains (some contain burials or midden deposits, while others are relatively sterile). The purposes of this article are twofold. One is to synthesize briefly archaeological findings of hundreds of mounded sites in California used by local hunter-gatherer groups beginning about 5,000 years ago and spanning to historic times. The other is to explore how these earthworks compare to those constructed by hunter-gatherers elsewhere in North America.

Keywords: mound building; California; mounded landscapes; hunter-gatherer groups; earthworks; North America

Article.  4360 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology of North America

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