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The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis

Race and Sexuality in Colonial San Francisco

Barbara L. Voss

Publication Year: 2008

This innovative work of historical archaeology illuminates the genesis of the Californios, a community of military settlers who forged a new identity on the northwest edge of Spanish North America. Since 1993, Barbara L. Voss has conducted archaeological excavations at the Presidio of San Francisco, founded by Spain during its colonization of California's central coast. Her research at the Presidio forms the basis for this rich study of cultural identity formation, or ethnogenesis, among the diverse peoples who came from widespread colonized populations to serve at the Presidio. Through a close investigation of the landscape, architecture, ceramics, clothing, and other aspects of material culture, she traces shifting contours of race and sexuality in colonial California.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

List of Tables

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xx

This book is based on research conducted from 1992 to 2005 at the Presidio of San Francisco, formerly a U.S. Army post and today a National Historic Park that is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Archaeological research is necessarily a group effort, the product of the shared expertise and hard work of many. ...

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pp. 1-8

Ethnogenesis refers to the birthing of new cultural identities. The emergence of a new ethnic identity or the reconfiguration of an existing one is not simply a question of terminology. Moments of ethnogenesis signal the workings of historical and cultural shifts that make previous kinds of identification less relevant, giving rise to new forms of identity. ...

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1. Ethnogenesis and the Archaeology of Identity

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pp. 9-38

“Found any gold yet?” the driver called out from the UPS truck passing by the excavation site. I’ve come to recognize these catch phrases about buried treasure and dinosaur bones for what they are: not evidence of the public’s ignorance about archaeology, but a tentative opening gambit in a conversation between strangers. ...

Part 1. Historical and Archaeological Contexts

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2. Spanish-Colonial San Francisco

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pp. 41-69

On July 26, 1776, a caravan of 193 men, women, and children arrived at a small plateau at the northern edge of the San Francisco peninsula. Defined on its east and west by two valleys containing spring-fed creeks, the plateau was somewhat sheltered by a bank of hills rising sharply to the south. ...

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3. From Casta to Californio, I: Who Lived at El Presidio de San Francisco?

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pp. 70-99

The artist’s reconstruction shown in figure 3 depicts El Presidio de San Francisco as it may have appeared in 1792. National Park Service interpreters and illustrators created this image in 1996, basing their depiction of the site on historical and archaeological research. ...

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4. From Casta to Californio, II: Social Identities in Late Spanish and Mexican-Era Alta California

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pp. 100-116

The ethnogenesis of Californio identity was both immediate and incremental. Within only two decades of their arrival in Alta California, the military settlers had cast away the racializing taxonomies of Spanish imperialism, drawing on historical antecedents from alternative practices of identification in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New Spain. ...

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5. From Artifacts to Ethnogenesis: Excavating El Presidio de San Francisco

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pp. 117-144

June 3, 1993, was unseasonably cold, even for San Francisco’s infamous fog-banked summer weather. All day, the coastal winds had whipped rain through my “waterproof” jacket, and I was chilled to the bone. When I arrived at the site of the last tank removal operation for the day, I was already anticipating a return to dry clothes and a warm office. ...

Part 2. Spatial and Material Practices

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6. Sites of Identification: Landscape

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pp. 147-172

The importance of landscape in the study of colonial ethnogenesis in Alta California is far from coincidence. After all, the colonial settlers took their new collective ethnonym, Californios, from the toponym of the province. In doing so, they grafted themselves onto the land, ...

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7. Structuring Structures: Architecture

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pp. 173-202

This chapter continues the investigation of space, place, and ethnogenesis by examining the architecture of El Presidio de San Francisco’s main quadrangle. As the colonial transformation of the San Francisco landscape illustrates, places are socially produced and actively constituted by the people who inhabit them. ...

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8. Tradition and Taste: Ceramics

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pp. 203-232

El Presidio de San Francisco’s military settlers inhabited a world of clay. The vertical walls that defined their built environment, whether of wattle-and-daub, rammed earth, palisade, or adobe, were surfaced in clay; the settlers walked across floors and plazas made of packed clay and fired-clay ladrillos; and, after the 1790s, they slept under roofs of curved clay tejas. ...

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9. Consuming Practices: Foodways

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pp. 233-251

“Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are.” Since 1825, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s aphorism (1999:3) has succinctly pointed to the tense and persistent relationship between food and social identity. The act of consuming food—taking foreign substances into the body for sustenance—is both intimate and intensely social (Dietler 2006). ...

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10. Fashioning the Colonial Subject: Clothing

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pp. 252-286

Five uniform buttons, two dozen dark glass embroidery beads, and a cheap glass costume jewel—the dense deposits of the Building 13 midden have yielded only a small handful of artifacts derived from the clothing of El Presidio de San Francisco’s colonial settlers (fig. 37). This scarcity is echoed throughout the archaeological site. ...

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Conclusion: The Limits of Ethnogenesis

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pp. 287-306

This study has traced the history of a group of colonized subjects who were recruited and relocated to serve as colonizing agents of the Spanish crown. It is often the most disadvantaged members of society—those with the fewest options, those who are viewed as expendable—who are pressed into service on the front lines of others’ imperial projects. ...

Appendix: Zooarchaeological and Archaeobotanical Analyses

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pp. 307-324


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pp. 325-342


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pp. 343-388


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pp. 389-400

Production Notes

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p. 422-422

E-ISBN-13: 9780520931954
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520244924

Page Count: 420
Publication Year: 2008