It seems worth while therefore to endeavor to discover how far it is possible to go in the direction of tracing the development of culture in the Californian area on the basis primarily of its own data. Such a limitation would be arbitrary if regarded as leading to final conclusions. The attempt has, however, the advantage of operating intensively; and such distortions of perspective as ensue will readily enough correct themselves on being brought into relation with the interpretations of our knowledge of other areas.
As a first step toward the conversion of the local ethnic data from their merely spatial relations into temporal ones, I have assembled a number of facts in the appended diagram. The idea of this diagram is to suggest geographical relations by horizontal arrangement, temporal relations by vertical disposition. Of course, the arrangement in both directions is necessarily somewhat rough. Also, the number of culture traits selected is only a fraction of those that might have been chosen; but it includes those whose nature or distribution seems most significant. Data for whose placement in this diagram no warrant is found in previouls publications are discussed in more detail in a receint essay on Elements of Culture in Native California, in volume 13 of this series, and in a handbook on the Indians of California in press with the Bureau of American Ethnology.
The genetic assumption which underlies the arrangement of elements in the diagram is that, other things equal, widely distributed traits are likely to be ancient; locally limited ones, of more recent origin. Obviously, this assumption may not be adhered to too rigidly: other things never are equal, or we often cannot be sure that they are.
For instance, had the ghost dance of fifty years ago been included in the tabulation, its place therein, on the basis of its fairly wide occurrence, would have been below the two peaks representing the culminations of the northwestern and central cultures; but on the basis of its known recency, overlying them. It is conceivable that a similar influence, institutional, mechanical, or religious, might have been only a very few centuries older than the ghost dance, just far enough in the past to be undocumented by history, and have left permanent residua in the culture of the same two provinces. In that event, it might have been entered, according to the plan followed, in a fairly low portion in the table, at a point representing an antiquity of perhaps several thousand instead of only a few hundred vears.
Another factor which is likely to vitiate conclusions drawn too mechanically from a diagram like this one is the origination of elements wholly outside the Californian sphere. The sinew-backed bow is a case in point. It is now generally accepted that this bow is only an abbreviated form of the composite. Asiatic bow, which is built up of layers of sinew, wood, and horn. In the eastern hemisphere, the composite bow is at least three to four thousand years old. There is little doubt of its having been carried into America and applied there in simpler form. It miLst then have been used first in the northwest of the continent and been diffused southward and eastward. Its Californian distribution represents only a minute fraction of its total distribution. Clearly, the history of the sinewbacked bow could not possibly be solved from a consideration of the facts of its occurrence within this limited region. The answer to the question of when it was first used in California depends in part on evidence that ranges from California through Alaska and Asia to Egypt.
Still, the facts of the bow’s distribution within California have their significance, however abridged; and set by the side of facts concerning culture traits of less sweeping range, and still others which are wholly limited locally, a synthesis can result which will yield at least a tentative set of conclusions available for matching against the broader but less intensive syntheses built up on the consideration of data involving whole continents.
In any event, the diagram is valid so far as it presents the facts. Their meaning is another story. With a clear realization, then, that at this point we abandon indubitable record for speculative interpretation, let us proceed in the reconstruction of the development of native civilization.
This civilization may be conceived as having run a course in four distinctive stages. The first period recognizable would be one of a simple culture with scant regional differentiation. In the second era, influences from the coast farther north and from the Southwestern plateau began to creep in, and the culture took on one color in the northern third and another in the southern two-thirds of California. A third period was that of the differentiation of the four cultures known to us. In the last period, which continued down to the time of Caucasian settlement, these local cultures attained their historic forms.