Anthropology •  Archaeology and American West

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Foundations of Chumash Complexity

Edited by Jeanne E. Arnold

This volume highlights the latest research on the foundations of sociopolitical complexity in coastal California. The populous maritime societies of southern California, particularly the groups known collectively as the Chumash, have gone largely unrecognized as prototypical complex hunter-gatherers, only recently beginning to emerge from the shadow of their more celebrated counterparts on the Northwest Coast of North America. While Northwest cultures are renowned for such complex institutions as ceremonial potlatches, slavery, cedar plank-house villages, and rich artistic traditions, the Chumash are increasingly recognized as complex hunter-gatherers with a different set of organizational characteristics: ascribed chiefly leadership, a strong maritime economy based on oceangoing canoes, an integrative ceremonial system, and intensive and highly specialized craft production activities. Chumash sites provide some of the most robust data on these subjects available in the Americas. Contributors present stimulating new analyses of household and village organization, ceremonial specialists, craft specializations and settlement data, cultural transmission processes, bead manufacturing practices, watercraft, and the acquisition of prized marine species.


Jeanne E. Arnold is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.


"Jeanne Arnold has assembled a provocative collection of papers that explore the foundations of California Chumash sociopolitical complexity. ... It certainly belongs on the shelf of any serious southern California archaeologist or anyone interested in the origin of complex forager societies and hunter-gatherer studies in general."

– Michael G. Delacorte, Journal of Anthropological Research 62(2006):435-437.


“The volume looks very good and represents a significant contribution toward California prehistory."

– Patricia Martz, California State University, Los Angeles.


Published By The Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press

8.5 x 11 in. 208 pages 52 figures, 49 tables