West Berkeley Shell Mound in California exposed during excavation

Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
May 3, 2022
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Archival photo of earth mound
Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

West Berkeley Shell Mound in California exposed during excavation. This massive site dates from 6,000 years ago through about 1,100 years ago and is composed of oysters and other materials and also contains evidence for ceremonialism and ritual.

A new global study of Indigenous oyster fisheries co-led by Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History anthropologist Torben Rick and Temple University anthropologist and former Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow Leslie Reeder-Myers shows that oyster fisheries were hugely productive and sustainably managed on a massive scale over hundreds and even thousands of years of intensive harvest. The study’s broadest finding was that long before European colonizers arrived, the Indigenous groups in these locations harvested and ate immense quantities of oysters in a manner that did not appear to cause the bivalves’ populations to suffer and crash. 

SI-157-2022

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