On Desert Shores

Archaeology and History of the Western Midriff Islands in the Gulf of California

Thomas Bowen

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9781647690380 (hardback)
9781647690397 (ebook)

Hot, arid, and uninhabited, the western Midriff Islands lie in the Gulf of California, surrounded by an often-treacherous sea. Given these conditions, why would ancient people go there, and why would anybody go there today? Thomas Bowen addresses these questions in the first comprehensive history of these islands.

Bowen draws on a wide range of sources, including the first archaeological field work ever conducted on the islands, written accounts dating back to the sixteenth century, oral histories of native people, contemporary interviews, and his own firsthand experiences. Among those cast in the islands’ historical drama are the Seri (Comcaac) people of Sonora, the extinct Cochimís of Baja California, Spanish explorers, Jesuit missionaries, pearl fishers, egg collectors, guano miners, hydrographers, cartographers, small-scale Mexican fishermen, recreational anglers, writers, photographers, ecotourists, shipwreck victims, and, most importantly, scientists. The final chapter documents the impact of this human activity on the islands’ ecosystems and examines conservation efforts now underway. Compelling and richly illustrated, this broadly based work provides a unique picture of these extraordinary islands.