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Contribution to Book
Culture or Adaptation: Milling Stone Reconsidered
Monographs in California and Great Basin Anthropology - Avocados to Millingstones: Papers in Honor of D.L. True
  • Terry L. Jones, California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo
Publication Date

Of interest to D. L. True throughout his career was the California Milling Stone Horizon, the artifact complex dominated by handstones, millingslabs, and crude core tools most frequently associated with the early Holocene in southern California. The basic Milling Stone pattern, identified in 1929 by David Banks Rogers in the Santa Barbara Channel and formally defined by Treganza (1950) and Wallace (1955), was brought to the attention of American archaeologists outside of California by Wallace (1954) and True (1958). Over the next 30 years, D. L. True authored a number of articles and reports on Milling Stone (Basgall and True 1985; True 1980; True and Baumhoff 1982, 1985; True and Beemer 1982; True et al. 1979) in which he described regional variants and refined the typological definitions of important artifacts. Also during this period, D. L. was not shy about bringing Milling Stone into the seminar room, often forcing theoretically-oriented archaeology students of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s to acknowledge their inability to distinguish artifacts from non-artifacts. Not surprisingly, nearly every significant synthetic treatment of Milling Stone in the last two decades was authored by either one of True's students (Basgall and True 1985; Hildebrandt 1983; McGuire and Hildebrandt 1994; Jones 1996) or a student of his students (Fitzgerald in Fitzgerald and Jones 1999; Fitzgerald 2000). As a result of these papers, and several by True's contemporaries (e.g., Wallace 1978; Warren 1967), Milling Stone has emerged as one the best known early complexes in western North America and it has been discussed in reference to a series of different issues raised by a succession of theoretical paradigms. One issue that developed with the emergence of processual archaeology concerns the basic organizational foundation underlying the Milling Stone complex. D. L. True (at least early in his career) and his contemporaries felt that Milling Stone represented an archaeological culture - a patterned imprint in the material record that might reflect a cultural system of beliefs, values and other ideas shared by members of a society or societies. This notion was all but buried by the ecological theories put forth by the new archaeology that grew and flourished concurrently with D. L. True's career. With the paradigm of the New Archaeology in place, Milling Stone became an adaptation - a rational, logical adjustment of technology and subsistence made by terminal Pleistocene/early Holocene peoples to the environment of southern California. As someone who has contributed to the notion of Milling Stone as adaptation (e.g., Jones 1991: 435-436,1992, 1996), I'd like to revisit this issue and argue, contrary to my earlier writings, there are compelling reasons to consider Milling Stone as an archaeological culture.

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Citation Information
Terry L. Jones. "Culture or Adaptation: Milling Stone Reconsidered" Monographs in California and Great Basin Anthropology - Avocados to Millingstones: Papers in Honor of D.L. True Iss. 5 (2008)
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