Very distinct groups with separate traditions occupied California throughout its 12,000-year human history, providing a rich and diverse archaeological legacy. This long occupation created tens of thousands of archaeological sites representing villages, hunting, gathering and fishing areas, religious and ceremonial locations, trails and rock art sites. The cultural complexity of ancient California is unmatched in North America.
Historical Archaeology deals with the physical evidence of activities by people who also left written records of their history. To a large degree, it is the study of the effects of Euro-American colonial and economic expansion on both the colonizers and the colonized.
Industrial Archaeology is a subdiscipline of historical archaeology that focuses on the study of industrial sites, artifacts, processes and history. While some practitioners focus primarily on the detailed study of specific industrial sites and processes, others are more concerned with understanding the profound role the Industrial Revolution played in transforming virtually every society on earth during the past two centuries.
There are many industrial sites in California State Parks. These include gold mines and mills, lime kilns, iron and brass foundries, logging railroads and lumber mills, shipyards and airplane factories, to name just a few.
Underwater Archaeologists study and manage submerged cultural resources. They use special methods to discover, record and preserve these underwater artifacts and sites. Underwater archaeology has great potential to contribute to our understanding of the prehistoric as well as the historic occupation of California. Using scuba techniques, our underwater archaeologists record shipwrecks, artifacts and inundated sites. History doesn’t stop at the water’s edge-the remains of the past continue offshore.
Submerged historic boat, Emerald Bay State Park
Paleontology in California State Parks: California State Park lands encompass some of the richest fossil sites in the western United States. The fossilized remains, which range from whales and mammoth elephants to microscopic plants and animals, are important to our understanding of Earth's record of past life. In the State Parks system we strive to preserve, protect and interpret these unique natural resources. We invite you to explore and enjoy these exceptional views into California's ancient prehistory.