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.


No lecture meetings in July and August

September 13, 2018
Steven Schwartz
The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island: New Discoveries Rewriting Her Story

Recent archival research has provided many new details that help to flesh out the true story of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island, as well as providing significant new insights that are rewriting this tragic story. New details include verified specifics of various parts of the story. These details include the Russian massacre, the fate of the islanders removed in 1835, island visitors during the Lone Woman’s time on the island, a new timeline for the contents of the redwood box cache, identification of George Nidever’s mission Indian crew, and the location of Nidever’s adobe in Santa Barbara. Other significant developments in telling the story of the Lone Woman include a Channel Islands National Park website dedicated to the Lone Woman story, a new edition of Island of the Blue Dolphins, and a bold new portrait based on historic descriptions.

Important new insights include the fact that there were Native speakers who were able to communicate directly with the Lone Woman, and a substantially different story has emerged from what she told them. The story from the Lone Woman’s perspective is quite different from what we have always been told.


Now retired, Steve was the US Navy’s senior archaeologist on San Nicolas Island for 25 years. Due to this unique position, he has become one of the leading experts on the Lone Woman story, the true story behind Island of the Blue Dolphins.

Steve began his federal career in 1980 with the Corps of Engineers in Los Angeles. There he worked a variety of assignments throughout southern California. He specialized more in historical archaeology than prehistoric archaeology, though his assignments ran the full spectrum of cultural resources: archaeology, historic sites, historic buildings, bridges, dams, and shipwrecks.

During his time with the Navy, Steve oversaw the excavation of dozens of archaeological sites spanning several thousand years of island occupation. He developed the Navy’s archaeology program for the island which made extensive use of local universities, most notably California State University, Los Angeles, resulting in over 35 theses and dissertations. Steve facilitated the successful archaeological field school program which brought some 500 archaeology students to the island over the years. He has been the recipient of two Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation. Most notably, Steve led the team that discovered the cave where the Lone Woman had lived, the location of which had been lost over the years.

October 18, 2018 (Third Thursday of October)
Dr. Joan Schneider
Purple Hummingbird: A Biography of Elizabeth Campbell

November 8, 2018
Dr. René L. Vellanoweth
Ancient Droughts, Fires, and Floods: Living with the Elements in the Santa Monica Mountains

The Santa Monica Mountains were home to many important natural resources and landscape features critical to human survival and spiritual sustenance. The ancestors of the modern Chumash and Gabrielino people lived in the mountain’s drainages and flood plains, carved out intricate trail systems, and utilized its steep slopes and ridges to harvest edible and medicinal plants, hunt game, and perform rituals. Adjacent open and protected coastlines offered a bounty of marine resources and provided access to the outside world. Life in the mountains, however, was not always easy as evidence of protracted droughts, devastating fires, and massive floods document settlement/abandonment cycles linked to naturally occurring and periodic episodes of destruction. In the following talk I will share the results of recent surveys and excavations in the western Santa Monica Mountains conducted by California State University, Los Angeles, California State Parks, and the National Park Service. These data suggest that people relied on local terrestrial and marine foods, manufactured beads and other ornaments, traded for obsidian, fused shale, and other toolstones, and distributed their settlement to take advantage of freshwater, seasonal resources, viewsheds, and proximity to trail networks.  

December 13, 2018

Steve Freers

Rock Art of the Grand Canyon Region — Expanding our Understanding