Final Report of the
New Melones Archaeological Project
portions available from Coyote Press


This massive nine-volume work, prepared under the direction of Michael J. Moratto, Principal Investigator between 1982 and 1988, reports the findings of the largest archaeological project undertaken in Calif. The New Melones Archeological Project brought together some of the premier archaeologists, historical archaeologists, historians, zooarchaeologists and other specialists in the United States to investigate nearly 700 archaeological and historical sites affected by the construction of the New Melones Dam and Reservoir in Calaveras and Tuolumne Cos., California.

The archaeological record at New Melones is especially significant because it:

Major themes which were addressed during the New Melones project include:

Now completed, the New Melones Archeological Project represents a significant contribution to understanding the history and prehistory of the western United States. Some of the many accomplishments of the project include:


Volumes reprinted by Coyote Press (with original publication dates)

I. Natural History, by Michael J. Moratto & Susan K. Goldberg (1982) (146 + xiv pp., 23 figures, and 6 oversized maps).

V. Data Recovery from Historical Sites, by Roberta S. Greenwood (1982) (346 + xvi pp. and 48 figures).

VII. Review and Synthesis of Research at Historical Sites, by Roberta S. Greenwood & Laurence H. Shoup (1983) (474 + xviii pp., 42 figures, and 2 oversized maps).


Additional volumes not yet reprinted by Coyote Press (with original publication dates). (These volumes will be issued on an occasional basis, but no date has been set for release of the Coyote editions.)

II.
Cultural Background, by Susan K. Goldberg, Alice Hall, Michael J. Moratto, Dorothea J. Theodoratus & Thad M. Van Bueren (1986).
III. Research Background, by Michael J. Moratto & Roberta S. Greenwood (1983).
IV. Indian Sites 04-Cal-S-286, 04-Cal-S-347, and 04-Cal-S-461, by Michael J. Moratto, Marcus Arguelles, Susan K. Goldberg, Steven O'Brien, Lynn Riley & William L. Singleton (1984).
VI. Archaeological Investigations, 1968-1980, at 62 Indian Activity Sites near the Stanislaus River, Calaveras and Tuolumne Cos., Calif., by Michael J. Moratto & William L. Singleton (1986).
VIII. Robinson's Ferry/Melones: History of a Mother Lode Town, 1848-1942, by Laurence H. Shoup & Roberta S. Greenwood (1984).
IX. Culture Change in the Central Sierra Nevada, 8000 B.C.-A.D. 1950, by Michael J. Moratto, Laurence H. Shoup & Judith D. Tordoff (1988).


Volume I: Natural History, by Michael J. Moratto & Susan K. Goldberg (146+xiv pp., 23 figures, 6 oversized maps, color covers).

This volume describes the archeological investigations undertaken by INFOTEC Development, Incorporated at the New Melones Dam and Reservoir, California, provides detailed information about the environment of the project area. Descriptions of the local geography, geology, climate, water resources, soils, vegetation, and animals serve as a background for understanding the ways in which prehistoric and historic peoples in the study area both adapted to and changed their natural surroundings. This background serves as a baseline for later comparisons of the different ways in which the land and its resources were used by successive cultures, including Indians, miners, homesteaders, and ranchers.

It is shown that in all of its aspects, the environment of the western slope of the central Sierra Nevada is best characterized by variability. The project area, which encompasses approximately 5122 ha within Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties, along the Stanislaus River, features landforms grading from low hills in the southwestern part of the reservoir to rugged mountains and canyons along its upper reaches. Such diverse topography, along with a system of large and small streams, presented both challenges and opportunities to the inhabitants, allowing such things as water development and mining but constraining others such as placement of settlements and ease of travel.

Like the topography, geologic features and mineral resources of the New Melones project area are varied and are distributed in a northwest-southeast pattern following the orientation of the Sierra Nevada. Local geologic resources have been of considerable economic importance to the area's Indian inhabitants. More than 75 types of rocks and minerals served as raw material for various tools; cave formations provided shelter and mortuary chambers; and numerous bedrock outcrops were used as milling stations for grinding acorns and other food products. Rock and mineral exploitation continued in the historic period, beginning with the discovery of gold-an event which had profound effects on the culture history of the Stanislaus river country.

The Sierra Nevada also influenced other environmental features, especially climate, soils, and vegetation. The Mediterranean climate of the project area has two primary seasons: a cool, moist winter and a warm, dry summer. The climate is generally mild, with infrequent snowfall or freezing temperatures. The most important aspect of the climate is its long summer drought which limited agricultural productivity and encouraged Indian populations to settle near permanent water sources. Water resources--including springs, intermittent creeks, and such constantly flowing streams as Angels, Carson, Coyote, and Mormon Creeks, and of course the Stanislaus River--are widely distributed within the study area.

As a result of the geologic variability and climate of the project area the soils are similarly diverse, representing seventeen different soil types of two major soil groups--the Noncalcic Brown group and the Red and Yellow Podzolic group--which differ mainly in the type of underlying bedrock. Because the soils are generally shallow and rocky their agricultural potential is low, suitable primarily for cattle grazing. Their cultural significance lies mostly in their strong influence on vegetation patterns.

New Melones Reservoir falls mainly in the Upper Sonoran life zone, but the Transition zone is also present and the Lower Sonoran zone is nearby. Major vegetation communities are Chaparral and Foothill Oak Woodland. Also found are Grassland (probably artificial and recent) and Yellow Pine Forest. These communities form a complex pattern offering a variety of benefits: watershed, timber, fuel, wildlife habitat, stock range, raw materials for native industries, and many edible greens, seeds, nuts, bulbs, and berries.

The native animal communities of the project area are also diverse. Important as game animals were mule deer, tule elk, grizzly and black bears, several species of rabbits, gray squirrel, valley quail, and mourning dove. Numerous fishes were also available. The cultural significance of these animals lies in the fact that they were abundant, diverse, widely distributed within the study area, and predictable in their seasonal ranges and behavior patterns.


Volume V: Data Recovery from Historical Sites, by Roberta S. Greenwood (with contributions by V.L. Butler, J.M. Foster, D.K. Grayson, S.A. Guedon, R. Haltenhoff, R.P. Hampson, P.W. Isaacs, R.D. Leonard, M.J. McIntyre, L.H. Shoup & W.G. Spaulding) (346 + xvi pp. and 48 figures).

This volume describes the 1981 data recovery program at 10 historical sites. The study area is in Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties, along the Stanislaus River in the central Sierra Nevada foothills. The investigation combined historical research, excavation, analysis of materials, and relation of the physical remains to the environment to address specific questions and evaluate models proposed as organizing frameworks for interpreting settlement and social organization.

The research design set forth in Volume III makes explicit the assumptions behind the hypotheses tested and the articulations between methods employed, categories of data sought, and the questions answered. In this volume the specific concerns were focused on identifying social and ethnic groups present in pre-industrial mining episodes prior to 1890, characteristic profiles of artifacts and features, cultural chronology of occupation, environmental constraints upon settlement, modifications of the environment by land use, and overall generalizations about settlement pattern related social and ethnic groups and environmental conditions.

The study area embraces approximately 10,250 ha along the Stanislaus River within parts of Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties, a region of highly diverse topography. Most of the research has been focused within the reservoir gross pool zone of 5123 ha, between the elevations of 224 m and 335 m amsl. Of the 10 historical sites investigated during Phase X, one (04-Cal-S-561) demonstrates a continuity of occupation for more than a century, the evolution of mining technology, and a shift from primary orientation towards mining to greater reliance upon agricultural endeavors. Both structural features and the artifacts reflect these changes through time. Other sites along Angels and Carson Creeks, the South Fork of the Stanislaus, and directly on the River, were selected because of their potential to yield data about Gold Rush activities, populations, and settlement patterns. Two sites in Mormon Gulch were included in the sample to investigate an area known to have been settled early by an identifiable social group.

For each site, a chapter presents data about the environmental setting, previous work, historical research, field work including methods and descriptions of all features, analysis of diagnostic artifacts, and a summary which synthesizes all of the information at the interpretive level. A concluding chapter evaluates various models and relates the results of the investigation to the research design, with implications for the studies reported in Volumes VII, VIII, and IX. Appendices present an analysis of all faunal remains and tabulations of other data.

The models examined in relation to data gathered include the Frontier, Victorian, and Dependency. Each is evaluated as it applies to the sites investigated during the Phase X data recovery program, and a new model is advanced which appears to be a better fit of all lines of evidence which have emerged from the multiple research strategies employed. The new construct explains the historical development of a site or region by stressing its dependencies on outside forces, and appears to have distinct advantages for facilitating comparisons among different chronological periods, modes of subsistence, and degrees of dependencies.


Volume VII: Review and Synthesis of Research at Historical Sites, by Roberta S. Greenwood & Laurence H. Shoup (with contributions by V.L. Butler, J.D. Frierman, D.K. Grayson, R.P. Hampson, P.W. Isaacs & R.D. Leonard) (474+xviii pp., 42 figures, 2 oversized maps, color covers).

This report fulfilled two contract objectives: to summarize and evaluate all work conducted at the historical sites since 1968, and to synthesize all of the available data into a series of interpretations based upon both historical and archeological research.

By 1982, approximately 450 historical sites were known to varying degrees; some had not been observed since the initial recording, while others had been selected for both historical research and excavation. Nine of the latter are presented as case studies for review of the documentation, cultural materials, and articulation between the field work and research objectives. Each is described in a separate chapter which summarizes the historical background, field and laboratory procedures, artifact assemblages, and concludes with a discussion which evaluates and integrates the available data.

The most important contributions of this volume are contained in the final eight chapters which draw upon all 450+ site records; reports, files, and collections; sites excavated in the final mitigation phase (Volume V) and during the earlier investigations; and additional historical research, to provide summary thematic overviews and interpretations. These chapters review all Chinese ceramics in the project area, with a comprehensive typology; domestic architecture in canvas, stone, and wood; stone ovens; transportation and communication; agriculture; mining; and settlement patterns. Archeological and historical data are combined in the final chapter to provide a synthesis of the years 1848­p;1942, and to illustrate the implications of the local economy and environment upon the social systems.

The appendices include an updated list of all recorded historical sites, grouped by apparent function, and a list of earlier, unpublished consultant reports. Special studies include the faunal analysis of vertebrate remains from 25 historical sites, maker's marks on glass and ceramics from the nine sites reviewed, and an inventory of all coins and tokens recovered.




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