The Chumash World at European Contact: Power, Trade, and Feasting among Complex Hunter-Gatherers

The Chumash World at European Contact: Power, Trade, and Feasting among Complex Hunter-Gatherers

The Chumash World at European Contact: Power, Trade, and Feasting among Complex Hunter-Gatherers

The Chumash World at European Contact: Power, Trade, and Feasting among Complex Hunter-Gatherers

Synopsis

When Spanish explorers and missionaries came onto Southern California's shores in 1769, they encountered the large towns and villages of the Chumash, a people who at that time were among the most advanced hunter-gatherer societies in the world. The Spanish were entertained and fed at lavish feasts hosted by chiefs who ruled over the settlements and who participated in extensive social and economic networks. In this first modern synthesis of data from the Chumash heartland, Lynn H. Gamble weaves together multiple sources of evidence to re-create the rich tapestry of Chumash society. Drawing from archaeology, historical documents, ethnography, and ecology, she describes daily life in the large mainland towns, focusing on Chumash culture, household organization, politics, economy, warfare, and more.

Excerpt

My initial field experience in the archaeology of the Santa Barbara Channel region was in 1979 when I surveyed the site of Dos Pueblos, named after the two large Chumash village sites situated on either side of a creek. As part of that project, I examined the site’s documentation and was intrigued with the large sweatlodge that had been discovered there in 1958. Prior to this visit, I had seen photographs of the excavations of houses and associated features at the Pitas Point site, also along the Santa Barbara Channel mainland coast. When I excavated at the site of Helo’ in 1986, I had completed an analysis of activity areas and of household archaeology at the Pitas Point site through the examination of notes, artifacts, photographs, and other documents associated with the site. the subject of household archaeology was not of great interest to scholars of Chumash archaeology, and even today remains a topic that is seldom studied. the lack of easily identifiable architectural remains is probably one reason that so few have focused on this subject over the last fifty years. I firmly believed that the nature of power, the emergence of political complexity, and the reasons that the Chumash used shell bead money could not be understood until archaeologists knew how households functioned within settlements, and whether in fact sites were once villages, towns, or places that were only temporarily visited.

Publications on the Chumash have burgeoned over the past 20 years, due in large part to the intellectually stimulating environment created by faculty and graduate students in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the department Anthropology Club was particularly active, headed . . .

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