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American Indians

The Antelope Valley, like all of California, exhibits a remarkable diverse geography and ecology. These specialized ecosystems gave rise to equally diverse cultural patterns during the prehistoric period. In the summary that follows, the West Mojave Desert is reviewed in terms of the general system of California cultural chronology.

Paleo-Indian Period
(12,000-11,000 years ago)

The end of the last major glacial period created large lakes in the Mojave. A complex and lush vegetation pattern existed around ancient Lake Thompson. There is no reason to assume that early hunters of the Clovis Tradition would not have used the local area. However, no conclusive evidence has been found.

Archaic Period
(11,000-4,000 years ago)

Lake Mojave Tradition (10,000 years ago) - Existence was based on specialized Post-Pleistocene habitats surrounding the lake system. It is associated with both Lake Mojave and Silver Lakes projectile points.

Early Pinto Basin Tradition
(6,000 years ago)

The ecosystems of the lakes were coming to an end, and the entire region was turning arid. These people shifted their resource practices to reliance on vegetation. New technologies included points, scrapers, blades, milling stones, fire hearths, and storage pits.

Pacific Period
(4,000-200 years ago)

Late Pinto Basin Tradition- In the inland arid regions of Southern California Mountains and deserts pine nuts became the basic food source, especially the seed of the PiƱon Pine (Pinus Monophylla). These food sources resulted in the secure and relatively sedentary patterns of settlement and increased population. This shift away from the lakes and towards the western mountains brought extensive contact with acorn-based cultures of the coast and San Joaquin Valley.

Shoshonean Tradition
(2,000 years ago)

Development of economic and social contacts produced a complex, secure and relatively "wealthy" cultural system. Increased contact with western culture groups resulted in an expansion of their languages and customs eastward into the Antelope Valley Region. As trading increased so did the number of Indian groups. This historic period found Kitanemuk, Kawaiisu, Vanyume, Serrano, Alliklik, and Tataviam occupying the area. With European contact the native cultures were severely disrupted.


-By Roger Robinson,
Archaeologist: Antelope Valley College