August 17, 2010


A few days ago, the radio show This American Life recalled the story of the Georgia Rambler, a 1970s reporter who would travel to small towns across the state searching for regular folks with interesting stories to publish in the Atlanta Journal. A similar project was carried out in the mid 1940s by Lena Creswell, a retired physician from San Diego, California who traveled the United States as a freelance writer. In May 1945 the Desert Magazine (link; page 23) published her short article about a man who lived in a small house in a remote part of the Jacumba Valley in Imperial County, California. His name was Mr. Happy Sharp, an avid collector of Indian artifacts that he picked up on his property and in neighboring counties.
The PAHMA lists about 500 catalogue numbers of items that Mr. Sharp collected between 1930 and 1935, for the most part potsherds that document some of the variations in ceramic typology and decoration of southern California. Among other things he donated or sold to the museum, there are few of the oldest archaeological objects from southern California that are currently curated in this facility. This knife fragment is considered to be associated with early Holocene hunter-gatherers of the so-called San Dieguito culture whose early occurrence have been dated to about 10,200 years ago (BP). Typical tools of the San Dieguito people were domed scrapers - such as the one in the second picture - often in association with rather elaborate lithic flakes retouched into a crescent shape. These tool kits show that no matter their proximity to the Pacific coast these hunter-gatherers were still primarily thriving by hunting large and small mammals like their immediate predecessors.
Mortars, pestles and other grinding implements that broadly indicate the regular exploitation of other kinds of resources - such as seeds and grasses - will appear in the archaeological record of southern California few hundred years later with the people of the so-called La Jolla culture.

Hearst Museum 1-68609
Knife fragment, San Dieguito type
United States, California, Jacumba Valley
Collected by Happy Sharp, 1930-1947

Hearst Museum 1-86974
Small scraper plane
United States, California, CA-SDi-175
Collected by Adan E. Treganza, 1949