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Antelope Valley Indian Peoples

The Late Prehistoric Period

Most archaeological accounts of Late Great Basin Prehistory emphasize evidence of a major migration, circa CE 1000, of Shoshonean-speaking peoples (of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family) spreading through the Great Basin and moving south and west through southern California. This movement, which ostensibly displaced prior resident groups and effected dramatic and rapid culture changes, is referred to by anthropologists as the “Shoshonean Wedge." One of the archaeological indicators that support this theory is the proliferation (after CE 1000, in many localities) of distinctive arrow point types known as the "Cottonwood Series" and the "Desert Series."

Cottonwood Series projectile points

However, in the Antelope Valley and many other locations in southern California, evidence does not fit this pattern. Rather, it supports the idea of Shoshonean presence over a much longer period (at least the past two thousand years), characterized by long-established traditions (cultural continuity) and change over time of a more gradual nature. (One suggested possible explanation is that groups of the "Takic" family of Shoshonean speakers began migrations from a common homeland much earlier than did those of the "Numic" family.) These theoretical complexities are the subject of continuous research, debate, and refinement by Great Basin scholars.

In any case, for Late Prehistoric occupants of Antelope Valley, subsistence patterns established in earlier periods--seasonal hunting and gathering, combined with trading, remained intact. The Shoshoneans demonstrated great adaptability and continuously improved and refined their technological skills.

The Antelope Valley was occupied and/or used by at least four distinct groups of Shoshonean speakers:

(1) Serrano (Takic), who lived near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and were related to valley floor dwellers (sometimes called "Vanyume");
(2) Kitanemuk (Takic), who tended to concentrate in the western portion of the valley;
(3) Tataviam (Takic), located in the vicinity of the Santa Clarita River; and
(4) Kawaiisu (Numic), who were centered near to, and east of, present day Tehachapi.

The groups traded and interacted with each other. Additionally, each group had its own trade and alliance relationships with other groups who lived outside the valley. (For example, there seems to have been much Chumash influence upon the Kitanemuk people.)

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(Text that appears in red indicates basic characteristics of the various culture periods. Text in blue denotes important additional details.)

Antelope Valley Indian Peoples
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