PCAS General Meetings

Monthly lecture meetings feature noted archaeologists and anthropologists who provide insight into a variety of topics. Lecture meetings are held at the Irvine Ranch Water District Community Room, 15500 Sand Canyon Avenue (between the I-5 and I-405) in Irvine, on the second Thursday of each month, at 7:30 pm. Meetings are free and open to the public. See vicinity and detail maps of PCAS meeting location. For additional directions, please call Scott Findlay, 714-342-2534.

Please Note: The Irvine Ranch Water District neither supports nor endorses the cause nor activities of organizations which use the district’s meeting rooms that are made available as a public service.

You are invited to join the speaker and PCAS members for dinner before the general meeting. It's an informal opportunity to visit with an acknowledged expert. We meet at 6:00 pm at a local restaurant. Please check the newsletter (left menu) for location.

Schedule and Speakers

Please note that last minute changes may occur.

October 12, 2017

Dr. Alan P. Gold

Religious Symbolism in Eastern California Ghost Dance Paintings



The Ghost Dance movements of 1870 and 1890 were revitalistic or millennial expressions (crisis rites). The central theme was that if Natives danced (the round or circle dance) and prayed the world would return to a natural, unharmed state before Euroamerican intrusion. The majority of anthropologists believe that the purpose of the dance was to bring back the dead (Native people and animals). The world would then return to the way it was before Euroamericans introduced their devastating diseases and destructive habits that nearly destroyed the Native Great Basin people—in essence, a new heaven on earth. There were strong elements of rain shamanism, a theme of resurrection, eagle feather metaphors and white horse oral tradition interfingered into Ghost Dance lore. In eastern California, a number of historic, multicolored Native American rock paintings have been documented that are extraordinarily rich in imagery including an extensive array of representational elements. These paintings are different from most conventional Numic paintings that are predominantly monochromatic, rendered in only red, abstract imagery. These rock paintings are a window into the worldview of Native people and provide some amazing insights into the religious meaning and metaphor of the Ghost Dance religion and Numic (Great Basin Paiute Shoshone) cosmology. New technologies (Dstretch, computer aided color enhancements, deconstruction of superimposition, and color sequencing) have provided some new discoveries. Greater insight into deeper meanings has come from intense literature study and improved physical documentation.

Dr. Alan Garfinkel is a California and Great Basin anthropologist/archaeologist. He is principally known for his work with the indigenous people of the Far West and for his studies of Native American rock art in California and the Great Basin and is recognized for his pioneering studies in the regional prehistory of eastern California, the far southern Sierra Nevada, and southwestern Great Basin. He holds active research interests in forager ecology, Native American consultation in cultural resource management contexts, rock art studies, and the peopling of the Americas. He is a recognized authority on the Coso Range Rock Art traditions and Coso region prehistory in general.


Dr. Garfinkel received his BA at CSU Northridge and his MA and Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis. His employment career includes the Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Applied Earthworks, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, California Department of Transportation, Bakersfield Community College, and AECOM. He is currently Principal Archaeologist for UltraSystems Environmental, Inc. in charge of their work in the Western United States and Pacific Rim. Dr. Garfinkel is also founder and director of the California Rock Art Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3), nonprofit, scientific and educational conservation organization dedicated to the preservation and enhanced of indigenous rock art resources in Alta and Baja California. He has authored five books including Prehistory of Kern County, Archaeology and Rock Art, and the Handbook of the Kawaiisu and has formally published 50 scientific articles in various academic journals. He is the recipient of both the 2008 and 2011 California State Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.

November 9, 2017

Dr. Janine Gasco

Four Thousand Years of Cacao Cultivation and Consumption in Mesoamerica


Mixtec bride and groom sharing a cup of chocolate.

The earliest evidence for cacao consumption in Mesoamerica comes from residues on the inside of a pot from the Soconusco region of Chiapas, Mexico, dating to almost four thousand years ago. We still do not know how cacao made its way from its homeland in the Amazon Basin, but once established in the tropical lowlands of Mesoamerica, its popularity grew, and by the time the Spaniards arrived, cacao was being traded across Mesoamerica and as far north as New Mexico. It was consumed in a variety of drinks, one variety of which became what we now call chocolate. The seeds of the cacao fruit were used as currency, and it had taken on a wide range of social values and uses. In the Colonial period, Europeans quickly acquired a taste for chocolate, and cacao production expanded into regions across Africa and Asia. Today there is concern that growing demand in new markets such as China and India may lead to higher prices and shortages. This presentation traces the development of the cacao “industry” from its earliest beginnings to the present day.


Dr. Janine Gasco is Professor of Anthropology at California State University Dominguez Hills. She is an archaeologist, ethnohistorian, and ethnographer who has worked for over thirty-five years in the Soconusco region of Chiapas, Mexico. A primary focus of her work has been on change and continuity in cacao cultivation and its role in the Soconusco economy over almost four thousand years. She has published numerous journal articles and book chapters, including “Cacao and Commerce in Late Postclassic Xoconochco” (in Rethinking the Aztec Economy, Deborah Nichols, Frances Berdan, and Michael Smith, eds. 2017), and is co-author (with Barbara Voorhies) of Postclassic Soconusco Society, 2004.

December 14, 2017

Dr. Dennis L. Jenkins

Archaeology and Science at the Paisley Caves

Dr. Luther Cressman’s 1938–1940 excavations at the Paisley Caves in Oregon discovered exciting evidence suggesting that people may have lived there as early as the Late Pleistocene, some 12,000 to 15,000 years ago.  However, it was not until recent developments in ancient DNA testing that he was proven correct. Dating of camel and horse bones, artifacts, twigs, and dried human feces containing Native American DNA between 12,900 and 14,500 years ago indicates that people lived in the caves and probably hunted camels, horses, and other animals at the end of the Pleistocene. This colorful PowerPoint presentation explains the scientific processes and results of archaeological and paleogenetic investigations at the Paisley Caves, bringing the audience the most up-to-date information about the evidence for the pre-Clovis (13,000 years ago) interaction of humans and Pleistocene plants and animals in Oregon’s high desert country more than 14,000 years ago.

Dennis Jenkins is a Senior Research Archaeologist II for the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon where he received his Ph.D. in 1991. A native Oregonian, he was raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he earned his BA (1977) and MA (1981) in anthropology at UNLV. He has taught and directed the University of Oregon’s annual Northern Great Basin archaeological field school in central Oregon since 1989. His research focuses on the first colonization of the Americas, obsidian sourcing and hydration, prehistoric shell bead trade, and settlement-subsistence patterns of the northern Great Basin. He is an active researcher with publications in such prestigious journals as Science and Nature. He has made 11 appearances in television documentaries aired on the History Channel, National Geographic, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Canadian Broad Casting, the Archaeology Channel, Danish TV, and will soon appear on Japanese TV. Jenkins has authored, co-authored, and edited 8 books, 47 journal articles, chapters, reviews, and published papers, and more than 40 professional reports. He has presented 66 papers at professional conferences and served as conference and symposium chairs for the Great Basin Anthropological Conference and Northwest Anthropological Conference. He is internationally recognized for the identification of ancient human DNA in Pre-Clovis coprolites more than 14,000 years old, the oldest directly dated human remains in the Americas, at the Paisley Caves in the Summer Lake basin of south-central Oregon.