The Skeletal Biology and Archaeological Analysis of Prehistoric Site: CA-SCL-851

Primary Investigators: Colin Jaramillo and Alan Leventhal.

Colin Jaramillo examining skeletal remains.


 Faculty Sponsors: Dr. Marco Meniketti and Mr. Alan Leventhal

Background: In the year 2000, construction for a Public Storage facility near downtown San Jose uncovered Native American remains beneath the planned foundation and parking area. Once the skeletons were uncovered during construction, Public Storage contracted with the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe’s Ohlone Families Consulting Services to develop a mitigation program that included a burial and archaeological data recovery program.  A total of 10 ancestral Ohlone skeletons were recovered from site CA-SCL-851, also renamed by the Muwekma Tribe as the ’Utthin širkeewis Tcitca ’Irekmatka [Two Black Obsidian Rocks Site].  Following the burial recovery, there was no funding provided by Public Storage for any of the osteological or archaeological analyses and as a result these individuals have since been curated at San Jose State University, and have been periodically reviewed by faculty and students as part of Leventhal’s Anthropology 195 class.  Recently there have been collaborative studies conducted on this population by Dr. Eric Bartelink (CSU, Chico) on Stable Isotope, and Ancient DNA by Drs. Brian Kemp and Cara Monroe from Washington State University.  A co-authored final report will present information on the field work, excavation methods, paleo-environmental conditions, skeletal analysis/inventory, stable isotope analysis, ancient DNA, artifact analysis, C-14 (AMS) dating, obsidian hydration and an ethnohistory of written by the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe.

 College of Social Sciences Foundation Research Grant: 
In order to accomplish some dating goals stated above Colin applied for a grant from the College of Social Sciences Research Foundation this past Fall 2012 semester.  Colin was awarded $2000.00 for his research proposal and the resulting AMS dates from Beta Analytic will be updated here. Colin will be presenting information on this collaborative study at the 41st Annual Western Departments of Anthropology and Sociology Undergraduate Research Conference, Santa Clara University on Saturday, April 12, 2014.

The Archaeological Analysis of Prehistoric Site SCR-12

Primary Investigator/Master’s Project: Gerald Starek, Jr.

Faculty Sponsors: Dr. Marco Meniketti, Dr. Charlotte Sunseri, and Mr. Alan Leventhal

Background: In 1986 the Department of Anthropology at San Jose State University conducted a field school on a portion of prehistoric site CA-SCR-12 located near downtown Santa Cruz.  After completion of the excavation a preliminary review and classification of the archaeological assemblage had been made by SJSU staff.  Furthermore, previous investigations published limited results from adjacent areas of this massive site, however, no attempt at radiocarbon dating the age of this site had ever occurred.  Furthermore, although obsidian was recovered from the 1986 excavation as well as earlier investigations, no attempt by any of the archaeological investigators was made to either source (through XRF) the obsidian flaked stone artifacts or conduct hydration (dating) studies.  Permission has been granted by the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe to pursue radiocarbon dating of the human remains and features recovered from the site and also to conduct obsidian sourcing and hydration studies on the artifacts.  Analysis of the archaeological assemblage recovered from this site has been conducted as part of Leventhal’s Anthropology 195/280 class during the 2012 Fall semester.  These studies will contribute to the writing of a final archaeological report on the CA-SCR-12 excavations as part of Gerald’s thesis.


College of Social Sciences Foundation Research Grant: Gerald was awarded $1995.00 for his research and the resulting AMS dates from Beta Analytic were: 3,590± 30 years BP (corrected to 1956 BC on a human femur); 2990 ± 40 BP (556 BC) on a Sea Lion bone and, 2750 ±30 BP (240 BC) on California Mussel shell.


Ancient Flora and People Paleoethnobotany of a Thai Rockshelter Site

Investigator/Master’s Project: Hannah Van Vlack

Faculty Sponsors: Dr. Charlotte Sunseri, Dr. Marco Meniketti and Dr. Ben Marwick

Background: Khao Toh Chong (KTC) is an archaeological rockshelter site located outside of Krabi, in the southern Thailand peninsula. This site is significant to Southeast Asian (SEA) archaeology because of the similarity to, and closeness in range of Lang Rongrien- a famous late-Pleistocene rockshelter site in this region.  AMS dating at KTC provides a timeline of occupation that dates earliest observable human presence to approximately 15,000 years before present, the end of the Ice Age.  This timeline of human occupation at the site is significant because prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups were very mobile in the Thai peninsula, this may be a reaction to the rising sea level.  This means that the groups moved between caves and rockshelters frequently because they provided shelter from storms, protection for fires or hearths, good lighting during the day, and they acted as a reliable landmark for navigation. In addition to the benefits rockshelters provide for prehistoric groups, they have well-stratified and undisturbed deposits.


Many caves and rockshelter sites in Thailand yield well-preserved faunal and floral remains.  This is certainly the case for KTC, making the site a rare and significant find to the SEA archaeological record.  Previous geoarchaeological analysis of KTC has shown that this rockshelter is well-stratified and undisturbed, indicating the need for palynological analysis of sediments samples to better understand the prehistoric occupation residing here, and perhaps the shift in human behavior from pre-agricultural to agricultural societies.  Sediment samples were taken from each stratified unit of the south wall for geoarchaeological and palynological analyses.  Using palynological methods could help explain the subsistence patterns of humans beyond zooarchaeological analyses previously done for the site.  The timeline of this archaeological site predates the spread of agriculture in SEA, a topic of much debate. In this case, archaeobotanical evidence could help explain the shift of subsistence and use of the rockshelter.

The results of this study will be the focus of Hannah’s Master’s thesis.

College of Social Sciences Foundation Research Grant:

Hannah submitted a proposal for funding in order to investigate the paleoethnobotany of Khao Toh Chong rockshelter in Thailand and was awarded $1,000.00 for her research.  Her paleoethnobotany study of examines human interactions with ancient plant material.  Methods of research involve a rigorous literature review as well as palynological methods for processing sediment samples collected from an archaeological site.  The results of this analysis will benefit the understanding of Southeast Asia archaeology, human consumption patterns during the end of the Ice Age, and landscape manipulation by humans in the region.  Additional observations about environmental dynamics can also be identified by employing palynological methods.

The Analysis of the Sea Otter Faunal Assemblage from Prehistoric Site CA-ALA-329

Primary Investigator:

Megan Watson (Master’s Thesis Project)

 Faculty Sponsors:

Dr. Charlotte Sunseri, Dr. Marco Meniketti, Mr. Alan Leventhal

 Background: Prehistoric site CA-ALA-329 (Ryan Mound) is a moderate sized mortuary earth mound site containing some shellfish, hundreds of human burials, and perhaps the largest population of San Francisco Bay sea otter remains.  The Ryan Mound was originally excavated in 1959 by Stanford University and later was joined by San Jose State University from 1962 to 1968, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Hester and Dean Pritchett.  Since the terminus of the excavations numerous published articles and Master’s theses have been conducted on the human burial population and archaeological assemblage.  With the exception of some preliminary sorting, identification and classification of the faunal remains contained within eighty archival boxes, no comprehensive study has been conducted on either the birds or mammals recovered from this site.

Based upon radiometric conducted by Dr. Bert Gerow, Alan Leventhal and Randall Groza, CA-ALA-329 spans approximately 1900 years (100 BC – AD 1760) covering the Late Middle Period through Phase 2 of the Late Period.  Leventhal in his 1993 study laid out the stratigraphic components identified at this mound, which will be utilized in this sea otter study.

Sea Otter Study

 Current study of the sea otter skeletal remains from the site attempts to address two alternative hypotheses: 1) An established interpretation as expressed through an optimal foraging model, that sea otters were hunted and eaten for subsistence by the inhabitants residing at the Ryan Mound; and 2) That sea otters were procured by the Native Ohlone Indians for their furs, used as prestige items or moiety markers and possibly used in mortuary-related wrapping of the dead, rather than as food within a normative subsistence-related diet.

College of Social Sciences Foundation Research Grant:

Through a review of the literature and discussions with Bay Area faunal analysts, it appears that no researcher has yet attempted to contextually date sea otter remains from any of the shellmound or earth mound sites in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Nor has anyone attempted to conduct stable isotope studies on San Francisco Bay sea otters.  Megan Watson was awarded a grant from the College of Social Sciences Foundation Research to conduct C14 AMS dating of the sea otters from CA-ALA-329 as part of her graduate research with the Applied Anthropology program.  With the award of this grant, sea otter skeletal remains will be selected from various contexts within the site and sent to Lawrence Livermore Labs for AMS dating.  Furthermore, selected samples will also be sent to Dr. Eric Bartelink, Department of Anthropology, California State University at Chico, for stable isotope analysis. Once the results have been obtained, they will be posted here on the Department’s website.

Creative Learning Center: Preliminary Planning for a Worker-Owned Cooperative

Project/Program: Knowledge in Action

Project Coordinator: Roberto Gonzalez

Project Members: Chelsea Halliwell, Lillian Luu, Cecilia Macedo, Shammah Martin, Jamieson Mockel, Sophie Powers

Funding Support: Laura Good Undergraduate Research Grants ($ 1,223.78)


During the Fall 2012 semester, 32 SJSU students enrolled in a new anthropology course called “The Great Recession.” Assignments and discussions revealed that the financial crisis has affected students’ lives profoundly. Youth unemployment in California is nearly 35 percent, and even higher for minority youth. At SJSU, Latinos, Asian Americans, and African Americans together constitute a majority of the student population. Nearly all students were dealing with at least one of a series of distressing situations: layoffs or reduced work hours, failed family businesses, overcrowded living arrangements, strained or broken relationships, home foreclosures, and stress-induced illnesses. Many shared personal accounts of how their lives have been turned upside down over the past five years.Students began investigating strategies for surviving the Great Recession–or at least minimizing its impact. What captured students’ imaginations more than anything else was the possibility of a business model slowly gaining momentum worldwide: the worker-owned cooperative. These businesses differ from conventional enterprises because they are owned collectively–typically by employees or “worker-owners” who make decisions democratically. Profits are not distributed to shareholders, but instead are divided between workers, a capital fund, and the broader community. Perhaps the most famous example is the Mondragón Cooperatives in northern Spain, which began as a small enterprise in the 1950s but now includes more than 80,000 worker-owners. In Cleveland, Ohio a similar experiment is underway: Evergreen Cooperatives provide products and services to institutions such as hospitals and universities. Evergreen is succeeding in the heart of the Rust Belt and may serve as a model for viable futures beyond corporate capitalism. Such initiatives also provide opportunities for new directions in applied anthropology.

As the course came to an end, several students began developing an idea inspired by these examples. They decided to explore the possibility of creating their own worker cooperative. They identified a service that is in great demand in downtown San Jose–educational enrichment programs–and have committed themselves to conduct more research, establish strategic relationships, create a business plan, and secure small grants for launching their enterprise. Though the Creative Learning Center project is still in its preliminary stages, the participants have made a great deal of progress.  The project team has conducted more than 80 hours of participant-observation and interviews with members of worker-owned cooperatives and educational centers.  In April 2013, they presented the preliminary results of their research at the Southwestern Anthropological Association conference in San Jose.