San Dieguito Complex

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The San Dieguito Complex is an archaeological pattern left by early Holocene inhabitants of Southern California and surrounding portions of the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Radiocarbon dating places a 10,200 BP (Before Present) (8200 BCE) date consideration.

Holocene The current geological epoch, covering the last 11,700 years

The Holocene is the current geological epoch. It began approximately 11,650 cal years before present, after the last glacial period, which concluded with the Holocene glacial retreat. The Holocene and the preceding Pleistocene together form the Quaternary period. The Holocene has been identified with the current warm period, known as MIS 1. It is considered by some to be an interglacial period within the Pleistocene Epoch.

Southern California Place in California, United States

Southern California is a geographic and cultural region that generally comprises California's southernmost counties, and is the second most populous urban agglomeration in the United States. The region is traditionally described as eight counties, based on demographics and economic ties: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. The more extensive 10-county definition, which includes Kern and San Luis Obispo counties, is also used and is based on historical political divisions.

Southwestern United States Geographical region of the USA

The Southwestern United States, also known as the American Southwest, is the informal name for a region of the western United States. Definitions of the region's boundaries vary a great deal and have never been standardized, though many boundaries have been proposed. For example, one definition includes the stretch from the Mojave Desert in California to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and from the Mexico–United States border to the southern areas of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. The largest metropolitan areas are centered around Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque, and El Paso. Those five metropolitan areas have an estimated total population of more than 9.6 million as of 2017, with nearly 60 percent of them living in the two Arizona cities—Phoenix and Tucson.



The complex was first identified by Malcolm J. Rogers in 1919 at site SDI-W-240 in Escondido, San Diego County, California (Rogers 1966). He assigned the Paleo-Indian designation of 'Scraper Makers' to the prehistoric producers of the complex, based on the common occurrence of unifacially flaked lithic (stone) tools at their sites.

This article refers to the archaeologist. For others with the name Malcolm Rogers, please see Malcolm Rogers (disambiguation).

Escondido, California City in California

Escondido is a city located in San Diego County's North County region, 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Downtown San Diego, California. The city occupies a shallow valley ringed by rocky hills. Incorporated in 1888, it is one of the oldest cities in San Diego County. The city had a population of 143,911 in the 2010 census.

San Diego County, California County in California, United States

San Diego County is a county in the southwestern corner of the state of California, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 3,095,313. making it California's second-most populous county and the fifth-most populous in the United States. Its county seat is San Diego, the eighth-most populous city in the United States. It is the southwesternmost county in the 48 contiguous United States.

In an initial synthesis, Rogers (1929) suggested that the Scraper Makers were the region's second inhabitants, following the people of the Shell Midden culture, later known as the La Jolla Complex, whose remains lie closer to the coast. However, his 1938 excavations at the C. W. Harris Site (CA-SDI-149) in Rancho Santa Fe established that the site's San Dieguito component underlay its La Jolla component, at the base of the stratigraphic sequence (Warren 1966).

The archaeological La Jolla Complex represents a prehistoric culture oriented toward coastal resources that prevailed during the middle Holocene period between c. 6000 BC and AD 500 in southwestern California and northwestern Baja California.

Rancho Santa Fe, California Census-designated place in California, United States

Rancho Santa Fe is a census-designated place (CDP) in San Diego County, California, United States, within the San Diego metropolitan area. The population was 3,117 at the 2010 census. The CDP is primarily residential with a few shopping blocks, a middle and elementary school, and several restaurants.

Claude Nelson Warren American archaeologist

Claude Nelson Warren is a California Desert anthropologist and specialist in early humans in the Far West and has been instrumental in defining the San Dieguito and La Jolla cultural complexes. He also has an interest in the history of anthropology.

Subsequent excavations at the Harris Site confirmed Rogers' main conclusions and obtained radiocarbon dates that placed the site's occupation as far back as 10,200 BP (8200 BCE) (Warren and True 1961; Warren 1967).

Radiocarbon dating is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon, a radioactive isotope of carbon.

Characteristics suggested for San Dieguito Complex assemblages, in addition to the abundant scrapers, have included large, percussion-flaked bifaces; flaked crescentic stones; Lake Mohave or Silver Lake style projectile points; a scarcity or absence of milling tools (manos and metates); and an absence of small projectile points and pottery.

Scraper (archaeology) stone hand-tool

In prehistoric archaeology, scrapers are unifacial tools thought to have been used for hideworking and woodworking. Many lithic analysts maintain that the only true scrapers are defined on the base of use-wear, and usually are those that were worked on the distal ends of blades—i.e., "end scrapers". Other scrapers include the so-called "side scrapers" or racloirs, which are made on the longest side of a flake, and notched scrapers, which have a cleft on either side that may have been used to attach them to something else.

Projectile point object that was hafted to a projectile

In archaeological terms, a projectile point is an object that was hafted to weapon that was capable of being thrown or projected, such as a spear, dart, or arrow, or perhaps used as a knife. They are thus different from weapons presumed to have been kept in the hand, such as axes and maces, and the stone mace or axe-heads often attached to them.

Mano (stone) hand-held stone tool used with a metate or quern to process or grind food by hand

A mano is a ground stone tool used with a metate to process or grind food by hand.


Rogers recognized three distinct chronological phases for the San Dieguito Complex, based primarily on changes in lithic technology, site locations, and site types. His changing terminology for these phases (including the equation of "Malpais" and "San Dieguito I") have caused some confusion in the archaeological literature (Rogers 1939). Most researchers do not now use these subdivisions.

Interpretations of the San Dieguito Complex have varied. Some have seen its makers as big game hunters, perhaps in succession to the late Pleistocene-era Clovis culture, while others have seen them as generalized foragers. While Rogers viewed the San Dieguito Complex as the product of a chronologically and ethnically distinct people, some subsequent researchers have stressed evidence of continuity with the subsequent La Jolla Complex. A more radical reinterpretation has suggested that the San Dieguito Complex was neither chronologically nor ethnically distinct, but represents a specialized activity set (perhaps related to lithic quarrying or stone tool production) of the same people who produced the La Jolla Complex throughout most of the Holocene (Gallegos 1987).

The Pleistocene is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.

Clovis culture Prehistoric culture in the Americas

The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture, named for distinct stone tools found in close association with Pleistocene fauna at Blackwater Locality No. 1 near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1920s and 1930s. It appears around 11,500–11,000 uncalibrated radiocarbon years before present at the end of the last glacial period, and is characterized by the manufacture of "Clovis points" and distinctive bone and ivory tools. Archaeologists' most precise determinations at present suggest this radiocarbon age is equal to roughly 13,200 to 12,900 calendar years ago. Clovis people are considered to be the ancestors of most of the indigenous cultures of the Americas.

Foraging Searching for wild food resources

Foraging is searching for wild food resources. It affects an animal's fitness because it plays an important role in an animal's ability to survive and reproduce. Foraging theory is a branch of behavioral ecology that studies the foraging behavior of animals in response to the environment where the animal lives.

Rogers (1966) extended the San Dieguito label to a wide region of western North America, recognizing four major regions: a Central Aspect, in southeastern California, western Nevada, and northeastern Baja California; a Southwestern Aspect, in southwestern California and most of Baja California; a Southeastern Aspect, in the Yuma Desert of southern Arizona and Sonoran Desert of northern Sonora; and a Western Aspect, in north eastern California's upper Great Basin. In the latter, early Holocene remains are more generally assigned to the Borax Lake Complex and Post Pattern. In the Mojave Desert and the lower Great Basin, such remains are now most frequently termed the Lake Mohave Complex. The San Dieguito Complex nomenclature is still in active use in southwestern California, the Colorado Desert, northern Baja California, and northern Sonora Mexico.

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