Research Programs

The Center conducts research programs in three areas of traditional culture:

Traditional Cultural Locations

Traditional Cultural Practices

Traditional Cultural Objects

I.  Traditional Cultural Locations

The Center’s ongoing research program in locating, mapping, and documenting traditional cultural locations includes ethnographic interviews and participation, archival and historical document research, and extensive field surveys and inspections.  During the winter and spring of 2016, the Center focused on southern California’s Colorado Desert.

Of particular interest to the Center are locations that have cultural importance but no obvious material or archaeological evidence.  Often these places are only known to those who made or used them.  They include vision quest sites, plant and raw material gathering places, trail routes, sacred or marker trees, culturally important rocks/boulders, and places where legendary events occurred.  Documentation of cultural locations is essential for understanding and interpreting the landscape.

II.  Traditional Cultural Practices

Textile production and fiber preparation are basic aspects of all cultures.  In native North America, native and domesticated plants were used to create fabrics and cordage.  Historic era people brought their own technology and materials with them.  The deep history of human fiber preparation dates back at least 20,000 years yet leaves little if any archaeological or material evidence since textiles and prepared fibers are perishable.  Preservation of traditional practices adds understanding to this important part of human culture.

III.  Traditional Cultural Objects

Beginning in 2016, Center research on objects focussed on museum collections of native southern California ceramic vessels.  A research project to analyze hundreds of vessels was undertaken, with the objective of providing a deeper understanding vessel form and function, use of local clay sources, sherd preservation issues, distribution of style and design, and repair strategies.  In addition, the Center’s research will aid archaeologists in identifying the original form and function of the vessel as represented by potsherds found in the field.