National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Amy E. Gusick

Affiliation: Natural History Museum in Los Angeles County

Dr. Amy E. Gusick is Associate Curator of Anthropology at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles County. She holds degrees in Archaeology (Ph.D. and M.A.) from the University of California at Santa Barbara; Journalism (B.A.) from Seton Hall University. Her primary research interests include archaeologies of the Pacific Rim, California, and maritime societies, environmental archaeology and zooarchaeology, and human migration and mobility; she was the Plenary Speaker for California Islands Symposium (2020 )and a keynote speaker at the 2019 Annual Meeting for the Society for California Archaeology.  She has published widely, and her current projects include Early Maritime Hunter-Gatherers on Santa Cruz Island, California (working title, in preparation for the University of Utah Press).


Methodological advances and innovative research are reshaping how we look for and understand human dispersals and adaptations on maritime landscapes. Refinements in paleoenvironmental reconstructions and search techniques have resulted in discoveries that challenge outdated theories of island and coastal regions as marginal to human migration, settlement, and subsistence. The Northern Channel Islands of California have become a focal point for this maritime research as new discoveries have shown this region to be integral for understanding initial human dispersals and early occupations in the New World. This region has also become a proving ground for methodological advances that are refining how we integrate land- and sea-based data into project designs that recognize both the landscape and seascape as a complex maritime space integral to maritime societies. Recent research has focused on the terrestrial and submerged portions of the island landscape that were intact and subaerial during initial human dispersal to the islands and during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene island occupations. By integrating paleoenvironmental reconstructions, archaeology, historical ecology, and terrestrial and marine geology researchers are striving to recreate the paleoenvironment and paleolandscape present during initial island occupations. These data may be critical to clarify early island colonization and adaptions strategies of the first Americans.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

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Gusick, A.E. and J.M. Erlandson, 2019. Paleocoastal Landscapes, Marginality, and Initial Settlement of California’s Islands. In, An Archaeology of Abundance: Re-evaluating the Marginality of California’s Islands, edited by K. Gill, J. Erlandson, and M. Fauvelle, pp. 59-97. University of Florida Press, Gainesville.

Gusick, A.E., Dodds, T., Jaffke, D. Meniketti, and D. Ball, 2019. Defining a Maritime Cultural Landscape in California. California Archaeology 11(2):139-164.

The ocean is the largest ecosystem on our planet and is critical to global human well-being and sustainable development. Recognizing the decline in our ocean’s health, the United Nations proclaimed The Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (Decade) to start on January 1, 2021 and continue until 2030. This initiative aims to “reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the Ocean” (UNESCO n.d.). The intended result of the Decade is data that can inform a science-based decision making process for management and preservation of marine ecosystems, allowing for increased reliance of our civilization on these critical systems (Ryabinin et al. 2019). These data need to be interdisciplinary and inform a path forward for sustainable development and preservation. Implicit in the goals created for the Decade is the importance of cultural heritage and social science research to the interdisciplinary data needed for the success of the Decade. Of particular importance is the unique nature of the maritime cultural spaces that encompass both the landscape and the seascape. “The social, economic and cultural progress of humanity has always been closely connected to the sea” and understanding marine ecosystems by considering past human actions is a critical data need that is in danger of being overlooked in the planning process for the Decade (Henderson 2019:2). Yet, marine cultural heritage – including data related to human dispersals across the globe, maritime trade networks, development of maritime society, and modern maritime economies – is vital to understanding the human past and how these deep time data are a critical aspect to creating an informed and interdisciplinary plan for marine ecosystems management, preservation, and health. This presentation will focus on these maritime cultural landscapes and marine cultural heritage data as integral to support the goals of the Decade and sustainable ocean development for future generations.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Henderson, J., 2019. Oceans without History? Marine Cultural Heritage and the Sustainable Development Agenda. Sustainability11(18), p.5080 (1-22).

Ryabinin, V., Barbière, J., Haugan, P., Kullenberg, G., Smith, N., McLean, C., Troisi, A., Fischer, A.S., Aricò, S., Aarup, T. and Pissierssens, P., 2019. The UN decade of ocean science for sustainable development. Frontiers in Marine Science6, article 470.

UNESCO (n.d.) Decade of ocean science for sustainable development (2021–2030):

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