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California State Prehisoric Artifact

The Chipped Stone Bear   Adopted:June 24, 1991
California State Prehisoric Artifact
The Chipped Stone Bear: California State Prehisoric Artifact
Photo: California Parks & Recreation Newsletter

Adoption of the California State Prehistoric Artifact

In 1985, a piece of volcanic rock was unearthed at the Allan O. Kelly archaeological dig overlooking the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, San Diego County, California. At about 2.5" long by 1.5" tall, this meta-volcanic rock looked a lot like a bear. Thought to be fashioned by native Americans around 7,000 to 8,000 years ago by chipping, much in the way of arrowheads or spear points, it's speculated that the item might have some religious connotations.

Today this piece of crafted rock is called the chipped stone bear and is referred to as one of the earliest representatives of art recovered in the Western United States.

The CRM (Cultural Resources Management) dig was under the direction of Dr. Henry Koerper of Cypress College, with college students engaged in the field and laboratory work. Student Richard Cerrito came across the artifact about two feet below ground.

One of the student's fathers was a Legislative Analyst. After the Carlsbad archeological project was completed Dr. Koerper and students approached him with the idea of establishing the chipped stone bear as a symbol of the state that would serve to represent Native California prehistory.

The chipped stone bear seemed ideal as the bear was a component of Native American belief systems and ceremonial practices and it was representing California in its flag, the Great Seal of the State of California, and as its official state animal.

The idea of adopting the chipped stone bear as California's official prehistoric artifact was hatched.

The legislation, Senate Bill No. 404 (SB 404), was crafted by California State Senator Ralph Dills and introduced in the Senate on February 19, 1991.

Senate Bill No. 404 received support from anthropologist, archeologists, members of the Native American community, and from the co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association (later: United Farm Workers) and labor leader Cesar Chavez. Dr. Koerper and Dr. Paul Apodaca testified in favor of the proposal in committee hearings.

The bill moved slowly through March. In April, things began to happen and, by the end of the month, the full Senate had approved SB 404 and forwarded it to the Assembly. On June 9, SB 404 was approved by the California Assembly.

On June 24, 1991, Governor Pete Wilson signed Assembly Bill No. 404 declaring the chipped stone bear California's official state artifact. [ SB 404 as chaptered ]

At a ceremony in the Governor's office, Dr. Koerper and Dr. Jonathan Ericson, of the University of California, Irvine, presented the stone chipped bear to First Lady Gayle Wilson. The California Department of Parks and Recreation are now the custodians of this prehistoric artifact.

California Law

The following information was excerpted from the California Government Code, Title 1, Division 2, Chapter 2.


Source: California State Legislature, California Law, (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html), February 29, 2008.
Source: Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Newsletter, The California State Prehistoric Artifact, Volume 46, Number 10, October 2007.
Source: California State Library: History and Culture, State Prehistoric Artifact, (http://www.library.ca.gov/history/symbols.html), February 29, 2008.
Source: State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded by Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer. Greenwood Press; 3 Sub edition (October 30, 2001).


Additional Information

Pacific Coast Archaeological Society: Offering programs and activities for avocational and professional archaeologists and for other interested people.

Society for California Archaeology: The Society for California Archaeology is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to research, understanding, interpretation and conservation of California's heritage. Membership is open to everyone with an interest in California archaeology..

California Archaeology: California Archaeology contains a record of past human activity that is as long and rich as anywhere in the New World.

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