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date: 23 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

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

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