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The Island Chumash: Behavioral Ecology of a Maritime Society

Douglas J. Kennett
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 310
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  • Book Info
    The Island Chumash
    Book Description:

    Colonized as early as 13,500 years ago, the Northern Channel Islands of California offer some of the earliest evidence of human habitation along the west coast of North America. The Chumash people who lived on these islands are considered to be among the most socially and politically complex hunter-gatherers in the world. This book provides a powerful and innovative synthesis of the cultural and environmental history of the chain of islands. Douglas J. Kennett shows that the trends in cultural elaboration were, in part, set into motion by a series of dramatic environmental events that were the catalyst for the unprecedented social and political complexity observed historically.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93143-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER 1 The Island Chumash
    (pp. 1-9)

    Twenty miles off the coast of southern California, a chain of four islands extends from east to west along the southern border of the Santa Barbara Channel—the northern Channel Islands (map 1). People colonized the larger islands in this chain as early as 13,500 years ago and archaeological evidence indicates that they were permanently occupied by at least 7,500 BP.* At the time of European contact (AD 1542), island Chumash people were heavily dependent upon maritime resources, lived in relatively large coastal communities governed by chiefs, and had active exchange and marriage alliances with their relatives on the mainland...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Human Behavioral Ecology and Maritime Societies
    (pp. 10-40)

    As early as the 1920s, David Banks Rogers had identified general trends in population growth, intensified economic strategies (e.g., fishing), and cultural elaboration evident in the archaeological record of the Santa Barbara Channel region (Rogers 1929). Since that landmark study, archaeologists working in the region have continually refined cultural chronologies and asked more specific questions about when and why these developments occurred (Arnold 1987; Erlandson and Jones 2002; Gamble et al. 2001; Glassow 1997; King 1990). Many of these theories have invoked environmental, demographic, and social variables to explain the origins of the economic, social, and political strategies observed at...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Environmental Context
    (pp. 41-71)

    Exploring the prehistory of any region using an HBE approach requires a detailed understanding of the natural environment. This chapter describes the physical and biotic character of the northern Channel Islands, emphasizing the spatial and temporal distribution of subsistence and nonsubsistence resources. As in most of coastal California, the marine environment surrounding these islands provided rich and varied subsistence resources to the prehistoric people who once occupied them. In contrast to the marine system, the terrestrial environments on these islands are generally depauperate. However, terrestrial habitats did provide a range of subsistence and nonsubsistence resources that were crucial to prehistoric...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Cultural Context
    (pp. 72-90)

    This chapter reviews the ethnohistoric and prehistoric records for the Santa Barbara Channel region to provide a broad context for evaluating the cultural developments on the northern Channel Islands during the past 13,000 years. Compared with other native Californians, the contact-period Chumash had a relatively complex sociopolitical life and the origins of this complexity are currently the subject of a spirited intellectual debate (e.g., Arnold 1991, 1992a, 1993, 1997, 2001; Arnold and Green 2002; Erlandson and Rick 2002a; Gamble and Russell 2002; Gamble et al. 2001, 2002; Johnson 2000; Kennett and Kennett 2000; King 1990; Raab and Larson 1997). In...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Historic Island Communities
    (pp. 91-111)

    Chumash consultants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century named roughly 22 commun~ities on the northern Channel Islands that were occupied well into the historic period (Johnson 1982, 1993, 1999, 2001). Locational information for many of these villages is clear, and archaeological sites substantiate their existence (Arnold 1990b; Johnson 1982, 1999; Kennett et al. 2000; Kroeber 1925). Johnson (1982, 1993, 1999) has done the most comprehensive work on the historic geography of these islands, synthesizing information from ethnohistoric accounts, mission records, and published archaeological work. The earliest and best account of Chumash towns on the islands was provided by...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Terminal Pleistocene to Middle Holocene Records
    (pp. 112-153)

    In this chapter, I summarize the Terminal Pleistocene through Middle Holocene archaeological records from the northern Channel Islands. These records provide some of the best evidence for human occupation along the west coast of North America during the Terminal Pleistocene and Early Holocene (~13,000–7,500 BP; Erlandson 1994; Erlandson et al. 1996a, 1996b; Johnson et al. 2000; also see Porcasi et al. 1999 and Raab and Yatsko 1992 for comparable work on the Early Holocene occupation of the southern Channel Islands). Compared with mainland sites of similar age, these deposits are often stratigraphically intact and better preserved. The mere presence...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Late Holocene Record
    (pp. 154-216)

    Substantial changes in subsistence, demography, economy, and sociopolitical organization occurred on the northern Channel Islands during the Late Holocene (3,000–200 BP). Much of the archaeological work over the past century has focused on sites dating to between 650 and 200 years ago, the so-called Late or Canaliño Period (Arnold 2001; Erlandson and Rick 2002a; Heizer and Elsasser 1956; Kennett 1998; Orr 1968; Rogers 1929). It is during this interval that the economic, social, and political complexity associated with Chumash society is most evident archaeologically throughout the Santa Barbara Channel region. Indeed, many of the named historic villages on the...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Synthesis
    (pp. 217-238)

    A series of models derived from human behavioral ecology (HBE) were presented at the outset of this book. These models established a conceptual framework for this study and provided a set of hypotheses, or predictions, regarding diet choice, intensification, etc., that are evaluated in this chapter based on the available archaeological and ethnohistorical data from the northern Channel Islands. Overall, the goodness-of-fit between the model predictions and the data are supportive of, and show substantial promise for, the application of HBE to similar problems in other maritime settings. All HBE models are contingent upon the ecological context (complex social and...

  12. References
    (pp. 239-290)
  13. Index
    (pp. 291-298)