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Excavations at Cueva Santa Rita, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Lecture: ARF Brownbag | December 5 | 12-1 p.m. | 101 2251 College (Archaeological Research Facility)

Celeste Henrickson, Instructor, Anthropology, Oregon State University

Archaeological Research Facility

This presentation will focus on an archaeological site called Cueva Santa Rita, a rockshelter located in the Sierra de la Giganta in the southern state of the Baja California peninsula. Based on radiocarbon dates, the site was occupied at various times including prehistoric, protohistoric, and Mission periods. The Guaycura were a linguistically diverse group of hunter-gatherers described by Missionaries and early explorers during the 17th and 18th centuries. As the first excavations carried out in the heart of the Guaycura region, the site is unique not only because of the preservation of organic materials, but also its proximity to a number of ecosystems and historically important locations, including Misión Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. The location of the site close to Mission Dolores, established in 1721, presents a unique opportunity to examine interethnic interactions, shaped by the dynamic relationships that existed between and among indigenous and colonial populations. The data I present utilizes a multi-scalar approach, examining the site in detail, but also comparing the materials excavated at Cueva Santa Rita to other archaeological investigations in central Baja California.

Biography: Currently my research focuses on the archaeology of caves and rockshelters in the Sierra de la Giganta in Baja California Sur, Mexico. My dissertation project combines ethnohistoric documents, geoarchaeological methods, statistics, and archaeological findings to study past lifeways at Cueva Santa Rita. Within this region, I work collaboratively with individuals from various fields including cultural anthropology, paleoethnobotany, paleoecology, geoarchaeology, geology, and paleogenetics. I also place a high priority on working alongside and developing long-term collaborations with local stakeholders from ranchero communities and anthropologists at Mexico’s institute for history and archaeology (INAH).
I am an active member of the Pacific Slope Archaeological Laboratory (PSAL), a group of scholars who work to explore and expand our understanding of the First Americans in the New World’s far west. As a member of PSAL, I share a keen interest in research on the First Americans, but often discoveries during fieldwork bring exciting opportunities for post-Pleistocene research as well. My dissertation work is good example of such an opportunity. I am also involved in summer fieldwork with PSAL at the Cooper’s Ferry site in western Idaho, a truly unique and valuable site and field school for students of archaeology.
As a graduate student I have a gained a diverse range of field and research experience. I spent several seasons in the Ecuadorian Amazon as a field assistant on both cultural anthropology and archaeology projects. I spent a summer at a Tell in El Hibeh, Egypt performing geoarchaeological work. My geoarchaeological experience also includes work at Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene sites in both the Pacific Northwest and greater American southwest. Before attending Berkeley, I worked as a geoarchaeologist and archaeologist for several CRM companies in Oregon, California, and Washington.