Research and Activities

Research Requests

The Archaeological Curation Facility (ACF) houses historic and prehistoric archaeological collections from Northern California and adjacent regions that are available for research by professional archaeologists, faculty, students, and other qualified individuals. A list of collections and their constituents is available on request. Individuals interested in accessing ACF collections must complete the Research Request Form. All research requests must reviewed by the CSUS Collections Committee. The ACF does not permit research on human remains, funerary objects, sacred items, and objects of cultural patrimony without explicit permission from descendent communities.

Prospective graduate students may find more information regarding the graduate program in archaeology here

Recent Research

  • ANTH 292 (Fall 2013) undergraduate and graduate students analyzed material remains from Kathy's Rockshelter (CA-BUT-301). The site was used from at least 3000 years ago and into the mid-late 19th century. Results of this student research were presented at the 2014 Society for California Archaeology annual meeting in Visalia. Please see below for posters by students and supporting staff. ACF received a University Enterprises, Inc. (UEI) Campus Grant in support of this research. These funds will be used to obtain obsidian hydration and radiocarbon dates to better understand temporal trends observed at the site.
  • Laurel Zickler-Martin (CSUS Graduate Student) will be analyzing canid remains from northern California archaeological sites to assess the capacity the Canine Surrogacy Approach can be utilized effectively in California. Her initial research phase will consist of a survey, testing, and statistical analyses of metric and nonmetric morphological criteria for distinguishing species of Canis osteological specimens. Results from this phase will subsequently be applied to archaeological specimens from ACF collections. This endeavor is intended to address a) the interpretive effects of the difficulty in distinguishing between the members of the genus Canis; b) the challenges in identifying fragmentary Canis familiaris archaeological specimens when depositional context and available morphological information do not provide sufficient supplemental inferential certainty.
  • Jack Broughton (Professor, U. of Utah) is analyzing elk (Cervus elaphus) remains from the King Brown Site (CA-SAC-29). Over the last several decades, a small industry of fine-grained archaeofaunal demonstrations of late Holocene resource depression and associated declines in human hunting efficiency has emerged. Standard archaeological indicators of resource depression—such as declining relative abundances of high-ranked taxa—are, however, imperfect and cannot distinguish between broad-scale prey population declines versus local movements of prey away from human settlements, as well as the effects of climate change. This project develops and tests a methodology using both ancient DNA (aDNA) and stable isotopes derived from elk remains that will better inform archaeologists of the specific underlying causes for the previously observed resource depression. 
  • Shannon Goshen recently completed her master's thesis (2013) research on avifaunal remains from the King Brown Site (CA-SAC-29). Her analysis of avian faunal remains contributes to regional studies of anthropogenic impacts to local game population and distribution during the late Holocene. Couched in an optimal foraging theory framework, results show an assemblage dominated by waterfowl in which the most profitable taxa (geese) decline in relative abundance over time at SAC-29. A mix of harvest pressures and changing environmental conditions likely contributed to this trend.
  • Emilie Zelazo recently completed her master's thesis (2013) on faunal remains from six sites located in the lower Sacramento Valley, including samples from ACF collections (CA-SAC-29, SAC-67, SAC-267, and SAC-329). Her study focused on developing a regional synthesis of diachronic faunal exploitation using a combination of paleoenvironmental reconstruction (catchment areas) and stochastic measures. Results demonstrated that in contrast to previous conclusions, foraging efficiency increased during the Late Period at the same time as diet breadth widened. Quantitative analyses demonstrated that this contradiction was best explained by the introduction of new hunting technologies in the Late Period which increased hunting efficiency of large mammals and anadromous fishes.

Past Projects 

  • In 2013-14, ACF received a Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) External Grant to fund further developments to our volunteer program. The ASI Grant will be used to improve the volunteer program by funding a series of Volunteer Training Workshops and to support a part-time Student Outreach Assistant position.
  • In 2012-13, ACF received a University Enterprises, Inc. (UEI) Campus Grant to fund a volunteer project on rehabilitation of photographic archives. Due to the destructive nature of archaeology, the photographic archives associated with artifact collections are an important component of the archaeologial record, while also providing a rich source of data on the history of archaeology conducted by Sacramento State since the 1950s. Students rehabilitated photographs, slides, and negatives using stablizing archival material, and organizing these images to be used for research by faculty, staff, and students at Sacramento State and beyond, to assist in repatriations under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and to exhibit the history of the Department of Anthropology to the campus community.
  • In 2011, ACF was awarded a NAGPRA Consultation/Documentation Grant for the "American River Project". This grant funded NAGPRA actions for a series of historically occupied sites located along the American River in Sacramento County. The project consists of consultation, developing and sharing a GIS spatial database with tribes, rehabilitation, and inventorying. This project will serve to expedite the consultation process first by consolidating collections from sites that are related geographically and chronologically, and second, by presenting information in a user-friendly GIS format. It is anticipated that this project will result in the repatriation of five sites.
  • In 2011-12, ACF was contracted to rehabilitate archaeological collections from CA-MAD-177, located in Hensley Reservoir in Madera County. 
  • In 2011-12, ACF was contracted to rehabilitate archaeological collections from Bennett Mound (Nawean; CA-SAC-16), located approximately four miles northwest of downtown Sacramento. Artifact typology and burial patterns indicate that the site was in use from the Middle Horizon and into the Historic Period. ACF holds collections from five discrete field operations at the site, from the 1920s to 1990. Analysis of materials from the site is currently underway by AECOM.
  • In 2010, ACF was contracted to rehabilitate the archaeological collection from CA-PLA-272, located in Martis Valley. Analysis of lithic artifacts from the site are currently underway by Far Western Anthropological Research Group. 
  • In 2009, ACF was awarded a NAGPRA Consultation/Documentation Grant for inventorying and consultation for our Zallio Collection. The Anthony Zallio collection dates to the 1920-30s, primarily from sites in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta region in north-central California, an area where few archaeological sites now remain due to urban and agricultural development. The project entailed consultation and documentation to make cultural affiliation determinations, while also developing and implementing an user-friendly database. 


March 10, 2016

Ryan Bradshaw and Paul Allgaier, Jr. presented their independent research on simple flaked tools from Kathy's Rockshelter at the Society for California Archaeology annual meeting.

Bradshaw, Ryan T. and Paul E. Allgaier, Jr. Flaked Stone Tool Diversity as a Reflection of Subsistence Intensification in Butte County, California.

October 28, 2014

Students presented posters at the first annual Provost Student Research Showcase at Sac State. In addition to the student posters previously presented at the 2014 Society for California Archaeology meetings (see below), undergraduate Tim Ryan presented new research on the evidence for bulb intensification at Kathy's Rockshelter.

Ryan, Tim. Roots of Intensification: Archaeological evidence for the increased use of bulbs in Northern California.  

March 22, 2014

Students and supporting staff presented a series of posters at the Society for California Archaeology at the 2014 annual meetings in Visalia. 

Norton, Tammara. Kathy's Rockshelter (CA-BUT-301): Poster Session in Honor of Kenneth R. "Randy" Bethard, 1953-2012.

Nelson, Wendy. Paths Crossed: Researching Cultural Affiliation for Kathy's Rockshelter.

Bradshaw, Ryan T. and Marcelle Powers. Lithic Procurement and Manufacture at Kathy's Rockshelter.

Brown, Gloria Howat, Jennifer Mak, Janel Thompson, and Brittney Woods. Analysis of Utilitarian Implements at Kathy's Rockshelter.

Wall, Bridget R. and Charles Hutcheson. Evidence of Early Historic Native American Occupation at Kathy's Rockshelter.

Zickler-Martin, Laurel, Jacob L. Fisher, Abby Trowbridge, Marisol Delgadillo. The Kathy's Rockshelter Faunal Assemblage: Insights into Butte County Prehistory. 

October 12, 2013

At the ACF, we have recently been reviewing our policies regarding the computation of minimum number of individuals (MNI) for reporting under NAGPRA. Many issues regarding the use of this statistic for NAGPRA inventorying purposes were presented in a poster at the Western Bioarchaeology Group (WeBiG) First Annual Conference, held at University of California, Berkeley.

Fisher, Jacob L., Kristin M. Macak, and Wendy J. Nelson. Ancestral Remains as Numbers: Problems with Calculating MNI under NAGPRA.

October 3, 2013

ACF faculty, staff, and volunteers presented on NAGPRA research at the 28th Annual California Indian Conference and Gathering, held at California State University, Sacramento.

Badovinac, Peggy and Wendy J. Nelson. The Village of Kadema: A Multi-Cultural Gathering Place.

Fisher, Jacob L. The Road Home: NAGPRA from a Museum Perspective.

Nelson, Wendy J. The Road Home: Researching Cultural Affiliation.

October 24, 2011

Staff from the ACF participated in Food Day held in the Union at Calfornia State University, Sacramento on October 24, 2011. The event was sponsored by the Center of Science for the Public Interest. Posters that took an anthropological approach to food were prepared for the event by ACF staff as well as by students of the Department of Anthropology

Falke, Mariko (2011). Sushi: An Anthropological Review of a Nutritious Meal that Now Spans the World

Fisher, Jacob (2011). Butchering and Cooking of Jackrabbits at Antelope Cave, Arizona

Goshen, Shannon and Emilie Zelazo (2011). Past Sustainability: An Examination of Prehistoric Diet in the Sacramento Valley

Nelson, Wendy (2011). Diet and Nutrition in the Past: Human Coprolites from Fish Slough Cave