Jenna Santy

Graduate Student


  • Complex hunter gatherers, incipient social complexity
  • Microbotanical analysis, ancient starch grains, groundstone tools
  • Resource intensification, household and communal organization


I work in California, and have an interest in all things Californian. My two main research areas include the Santa Barbara Channel coast and the Owens Valley, in eastern California. While these two areas may seem to have little in common, both regions have provided avenues toward studying incipient social complexity in hunter-gatherers. My work in the Integrative Subsistence Lab is looking at subsistence practices in the Middle Holocene on the Goleta Slough (CA-SBA-53), circa 5000 years before present. I'm using microbotanical analysis, specifically looking at preserved ancient starch grains pulled off of early mortars and pestles dating to that time, to try and understand when key resources entered the diet of the inhabitants of the region.


Tracking the Transition to Acorn Processing: A Case Study on the Santa Barbara Coast Using Ancient Starch Extracted from Tools

Acorns were an essential foodstuff across prehistoric California; the transition to acorn use is currently being investigated. CA-SBA-53, a single-component Middle Holocene site on the mainland coast near Santa Barbara, contains an assemblage fairly evenly split between mortars and pestles, traditionally associated with acorn processing, and manos and metates, generally associated with seeds. The extraction and analysis of starch grains from these early mortars and pestles can aid in understanding when acorns became part of the subsistence regime in this area. Such analyses can further illuminate issues of technological transitions and resource intensification during this period. This project seeks to understand the kinds of food being processed on mortars and pestles, using ancient starch analysis. This can better help us understand subsistence practices during this time, and potentially shed light on one aspect of societal organization among Channel coast inhabitants in the Middle Holocene.


ANTH 2: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (UCSB)

ANTH 5: Introduction to Biological Anthropology (UCSB)

ANTH 100: Basic Archaeological Concepts (UCSB)

ANTH 131: North American Indians (UCSB)