With National Science Foundation support Dr. Kent Lightfoot and his colleagues will continue their archaeological research at the Fort Ross Colony, located on the coast of northern California 110 km. North of San Francisco Bay. Fort Ross was founded in 1812 by the Russian-American Company, a mercantile monopoly that represented Russia's interests in the lucrative North Pacific fur trade. It served as a staging area for sea otter and fur seal hunts along the coast of California and as an agricultural community for raising crops and livestock until 1841 when it was sold and disbanded. The Company assembled an international, multi-ethnic workforce at Fort Ross that was divided into four major classes or estates: `Russians,` `Creoles,` `Aleuts,` and `Indians.` The Aleuts, imported from the Aleutian Islands served primarily as hunters while the `Indians` consisted primarily of Kaashaya Pomo, a local tribe. These Pomos performed a variety of tasks - tending livestock, working in agricultural fields and hauling clay for brick production. Each group lived in its own habitation area near Fort Ross and the goal of Dr. Lightfoot's current project is to examine the social organization and behavior patterns of this Pomo community. With one year of support, Dr. Lightfoot and his colleagues will lay the groundwork for a larger scale excavation. They will conduct archival research and also interview lineal Pomo descendants of Fort Ross inhabitants. The team will carry out a topographic survey of the site to identify middens and other surface features. This will be augmented by a geophysical survey to locate subsurface counterparts. Intensive surface collection will be conducted and limited excavations made in promising areas. One of the best ways to understand how cultures function is to observe how they adapt in new contexts and Fort Ross provides an excellent situation to utilize such an approach. The prehistoric Pomo are well documented archaeologically and through excavation at Fort Ross it will be possible to see how what cultural practices are selectively maintained, dropped or modified in a unique multi-ethnic context. Previous research has focused on Russian and Aleut portions of the site and this Pomo study will provide valuable comparative data. The project involves many participants, including Pomo and will serve a valuable training function.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Mark L. Weiss
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University of California Berkeley
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