Diversity, Exchange, and Complexity in the California Bight

Jennifer E. Perry

in The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195380118
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Diversity, Exchange, and Complexity in the California Bight

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The environmental diversity of the northern California Bight is reflective of the cultural diversity of the Chumash, who were never organized as a singular political entity. Instead, as many as eight groups speaking mutually unintelligible Chumashan dialects have been recognized ethnographically. The term Chumash is relevant nonetheless because of shared material culture and ritual organization. Although population estimates vary, the consensus is that the Chumash numbered around 15,000 to 20,000 at time of European Contact, which represents among the highest densities recorded for hunter-gatherer populations in the world. The demography and complexity of the Chumash, and the persistence of their hunter-gatherer lifeways, relate to the resource abundance and diversity that characterizes the Santa Barbara Channel region.

Keywords: northern California Bight; cultural diversity; Chumash; material culture; ritual organization; hunter-gatherer populations

Article.  4212 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology of North America

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