Some Early Southern Californians


          It was 1929 when Malcolm Rogers, archaeologist for the San Diego Museum of Man, confirmed the rumors from Del Mar that Indian burials were being eroded from the bluffs along the coast in North County.† An old-timer led him to the northwest shore of the San Dieguito River estuary where the rains of winter had partially exposed a human thigh bone, crusted with crystallized minerals by years of burial under fine Pacific sands.† 

††††††††††† Rogers was very excited.† He knew the people who moved into California 1,000 years ago were related to the Yuma people of Arizona, as were the Southern California Indians who met the Spanish missionaries in the 1700s.† He also knew that the tradition of cremation was practiced by Yuman peoples.† If his hunch was right, these bones could be more than a thousand years old.

           Back in the laboratory, analysis of the bones of this ancient Californian found them to be from an adult man between twenty and forty years old, short and broad in stature, well muscled and well nourished.† The scientists named him Del Mar Man.† He did not have pronounced Asiatic features and his bones were very different from those of the Yumans who would later come to Southern California.† His bones were similar to the bones of people in a few isolated groups in Asia and North America.

††††††††††† Rogers lacked the modern processes which now help scientists date organic remains, so he could only guess how long ago this man lived based on the position and depth of the grave site.† He estimated the burial to be perhaps 1,000 - 2,000 years old.† During the 1920s and 1930s more than eighty-eight other full and partial skeletons were uncovered on islands and on Southern California and northern Baja California coastal terraces.† These bones were from groups of people anthropologists named the La Jollan and San Dieguito cultures, each with several phases of technological and social development.

††††††††††† Thirty years after Rogers uncovered the skeleton of Del Mar Man, technology was developed which could pinpoint the age of carbon-based remains within a few hundred years.† When Del Mar Manís bones were put to the test, the radiocarbon date would show that he actually lived about 5,500 years ago.

††††††††††† Although we have learned an amazing amount about the habits of these early Californians, perhaps the most important and interesting question of all remains unanswered, just where did the La Jollan and San Dieguito peoples come from?† We may never know how far they traveled to get here but like most modern Southern Californians, Del Mar Manís people came to California from somewhere else, and stayed here attracted by the sunshine, beauty, and abundance.

Return to California Topics

Return to Grandmother Ariadne's Web