Past Events


Hominins, Hyenas, and Lions: Zooarchaeological Evidence for Meat Eating Oldowan Hominins at Kanjera South, Kenya

The shift to increased meat consumption is one of the major adaptive changes in hominin dietary evolution and likely had important repercussions for the behavior of our early hominin ancestors. Meat-eating by hominins is well documented at Early Pleistocene (Oldowan) archaeological sites in East Africa by butchery marks on bones. While it is established that Oldowan hominins butchered mammal carcasses, there has been disagreement about whether these carcasses were hunted or scavenged, as well as disagreement about the nature of competition between hominins and large carnivores. The 2-million-year-old zooarchaeological assemblage from Kanjera South (Kenya) offers some of the earliest evidence of routine butchery of mammal carcasses by early members of the genus Homo. Bone surface modifications indicate that hominins were likely not passively scavenging from carnivore kills, but instead gaining early access to prey either through hunting or confrontational scavenging. Modern studies of lion feeding ecology are also shedding additional light on the potential for hominin-carnivore competitive interactions in the past.

Dr. Jennifer Parkinson is a zooarchaeologist and paleoanthropologist interested in the archaeological record related to human diet and evolution. Her research is focused on the behavioral ecology of Plio-Pleistocene hominins in East Africa. Specifically, her work has examined the importance of meat in the diet of early genus Homo. Dr. Parkinson has conducted fieldwork in East Africa for over 20 years, where she is a member of the Homa Peninsula Paleoanthropological Project in Kenya. Currently, she leads the Albertine Rift Paleoanthropology Project exploring fossil sites documenting evidence for hominin evolution and environments outside the better known east African Rift. Dr. Parkinson is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University San Diego. She has held a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy at the University of South Carolina, and is also currently a Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and a National Geographic Explorer.


The Fishing Link: A New Take on the Coastal Model of the Peopling of the Americas

Dr. Mark Sutton discusses the role of salmonids as a magnet that drew Paleoindians south along the coast and into the Americas south of the ice. Other colonization possibilities and the role of a maritime adaptation with boats are also covered.

Dr. Mark Q. Sutton began his career in 1968, working at a site with the local community college while still in high school. He went on to earn a BA (1972), an MA (1977), and a Ph.D. (1987) in anthropology. He has worked for the US Air Force, the US Bureau of Land Management, various private consulting firms, and taught at a number of community colleges and universities, including California State University, Bakersfield from 1987 to 2007 where he retired as Emeritus Professor of Anthropology. He now teaches at the University of San Diego. From 1986 to 2000, Dr. Sutton served as the Editor of the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology. Dr. Sutton has investigated hunter-gatherer adaptations to arid environments, entomophagy, prehistoric diet and technology, and the prehistory of California. Dr. Sutton has worked at more than 150 sites in western North America, has presented some 126 papers at professional meetings, and has published more than 240 books, monographs, articles, and reviews on archaeology and anthropology, including the textbooks Introduction to Native North America, A Prehistory of North America, Archaeology: Science of the Human Past, Introduction to Cultural Ecology, Paleonutrition, Bioarchaeology, and Laboratory Methods in Archaeology.


Polynesian Contact with the Americas: An Update

The possibility of prehistoric Polynesian contact with the Americas has been considered by historians, archaeologists, and other scholars for centuries. Most evidence and most scholarly discourse have focused on South America, but as early as the 1930s, Alfred Kroeber suggested that cultural similarities between southern California and Oceania could be the product of prehistoric trans-oceanic diffusion. In this talk, Dr. Terry Jones will review archaeological, linguistic, and other evidence for such contact in North and South America with an emphasis on recent genetic studies that challenge some longstanding ideas.

Dr. Terry Jones joined the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo faculty in 1998. His research interests include North American prehistory, hunter-gatherer ecology, and maritime adaptations. His area of geographic expertise is the central California coast, where he has conducted field research for the last 35 years. He is actively involved in research on a number of issues related to the archaeology and ecology of prehistoric California including: the impacts of late Holocene droughts on indigenous populations, the effects of human-caused extinction of the flightless duck (Chendytes lawi) on nearshore ecology during the Holocene, the prehistory of fishing on the central California coast, and possible pre-Columbian Polynesian contact with the New World. His most recently published books focus on the archaeology and prehistory of the Pecho Coast and Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County.


Communing with Earth and Ancestors: Ancient Maya Cave Rituals

The ancient Maya are perhaps best known for their jungle-covered cities with large plazas and grand temples standing taller than the forests encasing them. These built places are often depicted as the settings of elaborate state rituals where elites would perform their ceremonial duties in front of the masses. Yet important rituals were not performed only in cities. Archaeological research over the last few decades has come to reveal that caves and cave-like spaces were among the most potent and important places for ritual performances by the ancient Maya. They were the places where the ancestors originally emerged from and where they returned to after their passing. They were also portals to where powerful Earth forces, particularly the rain deity, could be ritually accessed and negotiated with. In this talk, Dr. Jon Spenard will discuss his ongoing cave ritual research in Belize with a particular focus on understanding the relationship between cave rituals and the ancient Maya collapse.

Dr. Jon Spenard is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Cal State San Marcos. His current project, the Rio Frio Regional Archaeological Project (RiFRAP), is an investigation of settlement and ritual caves sites in a largely unstudied area of central Belize. With over twenty years of experience in the Maya world, Dr. Spenard has also conducted research elsewhere in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico for his graduate degrees.


Ironworking in Togo: Archaeological Research in the Bassar Region 2013-20

A brief review of Bassar research from 1981-2013 will be discussed, focusing on regional survey, developing ceramic chronology, and major discoveries; Early Iron Age discoveries (400 BC-150 AD), including 68-acre smithing center including burials with iron grave goods and smelting site with 4th c. BC furnace remains. This presentation will focus on the ethnoarchaeology of the spatial organization of three abandoned smithing sites and the excavation of five smelting and smithing village sites ranging from the 13th -20th centuries. Discoveries include ceramic tobacco pipe fragments, spindle whorls, smelting slag and furnace remains, faunal remains, charcoal studies, radiocarbon dates, a burial and abundant ceramics.

Dr. Philip de Barros (Stanford, UCLA), Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and former Coordinator of the Archaeology Program at Palomar College (1996-2016). Dr. de Barros has been conducting archaeological research about the Bassar iron industry for the last 40 years. He obtained a B.A. (History) and M.A. (Education) from Stanford University, and later a PhD in Anthropology/Archaeology at UCLA. He began his voyage of discovery in Africa as Peace Corps volunteer and administrator in Togo from 1966-1974, which included teaching African history and geography in French, coaching and basketball, and serving as an officer of the Togolese History and Geography Association and of the Togolese Basketball Federation, as well as serving as coordinator of Peace Corps teachers and in-country training. He later taught History and French at Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar for a few years. After his time at UCLA, he served as Director of Cultural Resources at Chambers Group, Inc., in Orange County for 9 years before starting his teaching career at Palomar College in 1994. He has published numerous peer reviewed articles and book chapters and is currently working on a 2-volume set in French on Bassar ironworking covering the Early and Later Iron Ages. The first volume will be published in January 2021.


A Day in the Life of a Physician: Renaissance

The historical period of the Renaissance that has been described as the making of modern man was also the making of modern medicine. Join Dr. Philip Goscienski as he gives an overview of the Renaissance with particular emphasis on medical practices of the day and how they influenced today’s physicians.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is a pediatric infectious diseases specialist with a 47-year career in clinical and academic medicine. Dr. Goscienski reached the rank of Captain in the United States Navy Medical Corps and closed his military career as Head of the Infectious Diseases Branch, Department of Pediatrics, Naval Regional Medical Center, San Diego, California. He was Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine until his retirement. He is the author of more than 700 newspaper and magazine articles as well as several medical journal articles and textbook chapters on various topics in pediatric infectious diseases. Dr. Goscienski has drawn on his interests in biology, anthropology, paleopathology and physical fitness to develop Better Life Seminars, a series of presentations in which he explains how our most distant ancestors lived and how we can apply this knowledge to our lives today.


The First Chicken Burrito in Western North America: Zooarchaeology of Avian Remains for the San Diego Royal Presidio

The San Diego Presidio, established in AD 1769, was the first European settlement in Upper California. Very little is known about chicken husbandry in colonial America, which makes this study the first comprehensive analysis of chicken remains in North America. Chickens are scarcely mentioned in historical accounts describing early California, and information on their sex, age, or management is rare. Small-scale poultry production, likely managed by women and children, provided California presidios with a form of subsistence independence.

Dr. Aharon Sasson is the co-director of the San Diego Zooarchaeology Laboratory at the San Diego Natural History Museum. He received his Ph.D. in Archaeology/Zooarchaeology from Tel Aviv University. Aharon has studied faunal assemblages from the ancient Near East as well as from numerous prehistoric and historic sites from California. Aharon is the author of Animal Husbandry in Ancient Israel, a Zooarchaeological Perspective on Livestock Exploitation, Herd Management, and Economic Strategies. Sasson and Susan Arter recently published their study on the chicken remains from the San Diego Presidio in the high regarded journal, American Antiquity.


Filling in the Gaps of the Prehistoric Otay Mesa Landscape

The prehistoric Otay Mesa landscape in San Diego County, California has been mostly understood through grey literature produced for archaeological studies conducted by cultural resource management firms (CRM). CRM arbitrary rules have created gaps in the overall understanding of this landscape by creating interpretations that focus on questions regarding quantitative topics rather than cultural significance or meaning. To combat this disconnect, landscape and lithic procurement theoretical approaches will be applied to physical archaeological evidence like x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis, Santiago Peak Metavolcanic lithic technological analysis, and paleoenvironmental reconstruction in order to produce a holistic interpretation of the prehistoric Otay Mesa landscape. A holistic approach will fill the gaps in research and show that during the early and middle Holocene, the Otay Mesa landscape was an extremely important resource procurement and production hub, which would have been of great significance to the prehistoric peoples of San Diego.

Haley Chasteene has been working as a professional archaeologist for the past 9 years, mostly in San Diego County. She currently works as an Environmental Planner and Archaeologist for Caltrans, District 11. She began her archaeological experiences just out of high school when she started volunteering for the San Diego Archaeological Center. Ms. Chasteene received an A.A in Anthropology and Archaeology from San Diego Mesa College and a B.A in Anthropology from San Diego State University. She has just recently completed an MSc in Archaeology from the University of Glasgow in the UK. Ms. Chasteene’s archaeological interests and experiences mostly stem from San Diego prehistoric archaeology but has field school experience in Belize focusing on the Maya collapse. Also, she was an archaeological supervisor for an Early Bronze site called Kaymakçi in Western Turkey. She has technical expertise with ArcGIS, 3D imaging with structure for motion, RTI capture, and resistivity meters for archaeological survey.


Amelia Earhart Archaeology: Testing the Nikumaroro Hypothesis

Aviation pioneers Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan vanished over the Pacific in 1937. Since 1988 The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has been doing archaeology on Nikumaroro, a remote, uninhabited island where evidence suggests Earhart and Noonan may have landed and died. Tom King, who served as TIGHAR’s senior archaeologist until 2018, describes their work and the evidence uncovered to date.

Dr. Tom King holds a PhD from U.C. Riverside, and was an organizer of the Society for California Archaeology. He is best known for his work and writings in Cultural Resource Management, but in 1989, on a whim, he became involved in TIGHAR’s search for Amelia Earhart. He has taken part in eight archaeological visits to Nikumaroro, the latest sponsored by National Geographic in 2019. He has co-authored a non-fiction account of TIGHAR’s work, plus two novels that imagine Earhart’s fate and the discovery of her remains.


Chicano Park: San Diego’s Sistine Chapel

Call it blasphemous if you will, Sistine Chapel indeed! Say what you will, you cannot escape the beauty, magnificence, and grandeur of the murals painted on freeway bridge columns in Chicano Park. You are surrounded by the largest collection of outdoor murals in a single public setting in California. Beyond beauty, the park and murals are historically significant for the role they played in the California Chicano Civil Rights Movement. Come hear why and learn why you will want to visit this park where art and the messages communicated in them are as relevant today as they were back in the late 1960s.

Martin D. Rosen is a retired cultural resource professional, with almost 50 years in the profession. Thirty years were spent at Caltrans in San Diego, where he worked on, ran, and oversaw many significant cultural resource investigations in San Diego and Imperial Counties. He continues to research, edit the work of others, and publish in archaeology and paleoanthropology. Born in L.A., and with B.A. and M.A. degrees in hand, he moved to San Diego in 1980 to pursue his Caltrans career. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the San Diego Archaeological Center.


Geoglyphs of the Desert Southwest

The deserts of the American southwest contain one of the largest concentrations of geoglyphs outside of Peru’s Nazca Lines. These ancient Native American works of earthen art can be up to hundreds of feet long, and yet are often invisible until viewed from above. Before drones, GPS, or Google Maps, photographer Harry Casey began a unique archaeology project. Armed with nothing more than topographic maps, 35mm film cameras, and his beloved Piper J3 Cub aircraft, Casey spent thirty-five years documenting the region’s geoglyphs before natural erosion and human intervention could destroy these fragile sites. A newly published book, Geoglyphs of the Desert Southwest: Earthen Art as Viewed from Above, authored by Harry Casey and Anne Morgan, collects Casey’s photographs into the first visual record of these beautiful and mysterious features.

Geoglyphs of the Desert Southwest, published by Sunbelt Publications, is the first book dedicated to the earthen art of the southwest deserts of the United States. Steven M. Freers, rock art researcher and co-author of Rock Art of the Grand Canyon Region praises the book, “This definitive book is an elegant historical account of the relentless pursuit to document and comprehend one of humankind’s great enigmas as expressed on desert surfaces. It is a gem, an essential addition to anyone’s library where the mysteries of rock art holds special status.”

About the Authors: The eldest of three sons born into a farming family east of Brawley, California, Harry Casey had always been interested in flying, photography, and desert archaeology.  These interests led him to take classes from noted archaeologist and historian Jay von Werlhof at the Imperial Valley College in El Centro, California. After many years of flying and photographing, Casey donated his extensive collection of photographs and research to the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, where Anne Morgan was the Head Archivist/Curator. Anne met Harry and his wife, Meg Casey, and what began as an archival project on nearly 10,000 aerial images became a friendship and partnership as she helped edit Harry’s original manuscript into a published book.


Overseas Chinese at Rancho Peñasquitos: Evidence from the Johnson-Taylor House

This presentation summarizes the results of historical archaeology conducted at Rancho Peñasquitos, San Diego Calif.. This investigation focuses on a previously under-reported population of Chinese employees working at the Ranch in 1880. In addition to reviewing evidence supporting the presence of Chinese workers at Penasquitos this report attempts to develop an understanding of this groups experience at the site by placing them in a broader historical context.

Mark Thompson completed his AA degree in Anthropology/Archaeology from Palomar College in 2019. His archaeological training includes field work in the San Diego area as well as in Central America and Italy. He has twice participated in excavations at Los Peñasquitos Ranch under direction of faculty from Palomar. Mark holds a Bachelor degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Public Health and worked in San Diego’s Biotech industry before shifting his focus to archaeology in 2015.


The Archaeology and History of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

People have lived on or near Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for at least 10,000 years. What does the archaeological record tell us about how they survived? When the Spanish first came to San Diego, the people there were known as the Kumeyaay. What natural resources did they utilize? Did they have a village there? What happened over historical times to those people?

Kathleen Dickey is a former microbiologist who specialized in infectious disease diagnostics. After her retirement, she followed her other interests:  San Diego archaeology, natural history, and cultural history. During an internship with Palomar College, she began a volunteer research relationship with San Diego Archaeological Center starting in 2005. She has been a docent naturalist at Torrey Pines SNR since 2008.


History of the Modern Attack Submarine

In 1941 submarines became sophisticated weapons of war, but were still a torpedo boat that could only submerge for short periods of time to avoid attack. Over the next 20 years, with a changing shape and development of sensors, submarines became quieter, faster, and operated at increased depths. These significant improvements resulted in the THRESHER Class submarine, the template for all modern nuclear submarines. This virtual event will be held via Zoom and is limited to 100 attendees.

Captain Jim Bryant, U.S. Navy (Retired) received a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and was commissioned an Ensign in 1971. Bryant was selected by Admiral Rickover for the naval nuclear propulsion training and subsequently served on five nuclear submarines that culminated with commanding USS GUARDFISH (SSN 612) from 1987-1990. Three of these submarines were homeported in San Diego, CA. During his 23-year career he participated in Cold War Missions in the Gulf of Aden; North, Norwegian, Bering and Arabian Seas, and the Seas of Japan and Okhotsk and assisted the Royal Navy during the Falklands War as a Staff Officer in London, UK. After a tour in the Pentagon he retired from the Navy in 1994 and started a small business. Bryant also researched the sinking of the nuclear submarines THRESHER and SCORPION. In 2015 he returned to San Diego, took courses in Archeology and became a volunteer at the San Diego Archeological Center. His research on the loss of USS THRESHER (SN 593) found that the Navy’s version of the disaster is inaccurate and resulted in publications of several articles. In July 2019 he sued the Navy for information on THRESHER after his Freedom of Information Act request was ignored.


The Coming Storm: Curation Crisis Continues

Do you hear that? A massive rumbling in the distance, getting closer and closer? It’s the millions of artifacts, pouring out of Cultural Resource Management (CRM) companies. CRM firms are going out of business, merging, moving or simply can no longer afford the dead storage. This is chapter two of the Curation Crisis. The time is now to address this issue. Please joins us as Cindy Stankowski, Executive Director, leads this discussion.

Cindy Stankowski’s personal commitment is to continue to have a positive impact in the community by making new ideas and information accessible in the museum setting. Ms. Stankowski received a Bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in Anthropology from San Diego State University and a Master’s degree in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University. She has been with the San Diego Archaeological Center since 1996, leading the effort to preserve our archaeological legacy. She brings an understanding of curation issues and museum management to SDAC and has led symposia on curation throughout the state.  Ms. Stankowski also seeks new and innovative ways for the public to connect with the past, including exhibits, seminars and school presentations.


10,000 Years: Archaeological Record of San Diego

San Diego is blessed with abundant natural and cultural resources.  Over 36,000 archaeological sites have been discovered in San Diego County. These sites contain the material culture of people who have lived in the region for over 10,000 years. This presentation will reveal what archaeology has uncovered about the ancient peoples who called San Diego home.  Archaeology is a wonderful tool for understanding the past and bringing context to the present. Join us for a Living Room Lecture on 10,000 years of San Diego history and a new understanding of the past. This virtual event will be held via Zoom and is limited to 100 attendees.

Cindy Stankowski’s personal commitment is to continue to have a positive impact in the community by making new ideas and information accessible in the museum setting. Ms. Stankowski received a Bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in Anthropology from San Diego State University and a Master’s degree in Museum Studies from San Francisco State University. She has been with the San Diego Archaeological Center since 1996, leading the effort to preserve our archaeological legacy. She brings an understanding of curation issues and museum management to SDAC and has led symposia on curation throughout the state.  Ms. Stankowski also seeks new and innovative ways for the public to connect with the past, including exhibits, seminars and school presentations.


A Case Study from Whaley House: Brand Marketing and Bleach

Often while analyzing archaeological data, a seemingly ordinary artifact or assemblage tells an unexpected story. In my case, this was the dozen amber embossed bleach bottles from the Whaley House collection. While analyzing the collection, I developed several basic research questions: when was bleach introduced, who used it, and most importantly, why? This “why” led to an exploration of marketing, branding, and consumption. Why was a product like Clorox (unknown at the turn of the 20th century) widely consumed and considered essential circa WWII? Did an increase in exposure to brand name advertising correlate with increased bleach consumption? By taking a look at various trends around the WWII era, I became aware of the profound impact of advertising and marketing on bleach consumption. This is an important factor to consider as we contemplate what the archaeological record of the future will look like. In this presentation I will briefly discuss my findings, a short history of bleach, how brand marketing and advertising affect the consumer, and what it means to the archaeological record.

Kathy Collins is an archaeologist for California State Parks, Southern Service Center and volunteer at San Diego Archaeological Center. She received her Master’s Degree in Anthropology with a focus on archaeology. Kathy is especially interested in historical artifacts. Her thesis entitled An Anthropological and Archaeological Analysis of American Victorian (1876-1915) and Progressive Era (1900-1920) Medicine in San Diego, California focused on the glass collection from the Whaley House excavation. As an archaeologist for State Parks, Kathy travels throughout Southern California monitoring construction projects, surveying and excavating as well as curating and cataloguing artifact collections in the lab and writing reports. Throughout her travels and work in Southern California, Kathy looks for the hidden stories that lie beneath the surface.


A Day in the Life of a Physician: Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt had some unusual characteristics beyond pyramids and mummies. Diseases of the era are depicted in temple artwork and Egyptian physicians were respected for their knowledge in the ancient world. Join us for our first Living Room Lecture as Dr. Philip Goscienski presents a day in the life of a physician in Ancient Egypt. This event is limited to 100 attendees.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is a pediatric infectious diseases specialist with a 47-year career in clinical and academic medicine. Dr. Goscienski reached the rank of Captain in the United States Navy Medical Corps and closed his military career as Head of the Infectious Diseases Branch, Department of Pediatrics, Naval Regional Medical Center, San Diego, California. He was Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine until his retirement. He is the author of more than 700 newspaper and magazine articles as well as several medical journal articles and textbook chapters on various topics in pediatric infectious diseases. Dr. Goscienski has drawn on his interests in biology, anthropology, paleopathology and physical fitness to develop Better Life Seminars, a series of presentations in which he explains how our most distant ancestors lived and how we can apply this knowledge to our lives today.


Animal Bones and Teeth: Stone Age Environments Revealed

Zooarchaeologists seek to answer questions about the human past using animal remains from the archaeological record. These researchers explore what people ate, what environments were like, the movements of animals across landscapes, relationships between people and animals, and more. In this talk Gillian Wong will dive into what it means to be a zooarchaeologist and how animal remains can be used to address several key questions in our understanding of the human past. She will draw specifically from her PhD work that uses the remains of micro-mammals, like rodents and insectivores, from Langmahdhalde, an archaeological site in southwestern Germany, to reconstruct climates and environments during the stone age. What kind of vegetation existed during this time and how cold was it? But more importantly, what implications does all this have for human settlement of the region? This lecture is limited to 100 attendees.

Gillian Wong is a PhD student in archaeology at the University of Tuebingen in Germany. Her specialty is zooarchaeology, or animal (faunal) remains in the archaeological record. She is primarily interested in using animal remains to explore how large-scale changes in climate affected prehistoric hunter-gatherers at the local level. Currently, she is the zooarchaeologist for a project in southwestern Germany that is excavating one of the first Magdalenian (~15,000 years before present) sites to be discovered in the region since the 1970s. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of California, Davis and a Master’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Utah. When she’s not doing archaeology, Gillian enjoys hiking with her dog and husband, swimming, and reading.