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13,000 years
central coast

paleoindian initial-early terminal-early middle late
timeline
Timeline of Cultural Change in South Central California
Years B.P.
(Before Present)
Period Subsistence and Technology
13,000



to



8,500

Before Present
Paleoindian Period People lived in small groups, collecting shellfish and harvesting wild seeds. Watercraft enabled travel to the single large offshore island, Santarosae, exposed when sea level was 150 feet lower than today. The earliest people to arrive may have encountered island pygmy mammoths. Climate was cool and moist, supporting extensive pine forests. Evidence from this period is sparse but includes basketry, seagrass cordage, a seed-milling stone, beads, chert tools and a fish-like effigy. Known sites are on Santa Rosa Island (Arlington Springs 13,000 BP), San Miguel Island (Daisy Cave 11,000 BP), Vandenberg Air Force Base (9,000 BP) and near Nipomo (10,000 BP). Many coastal sites were submerged as glacial ice melted and sea level rose.
8,500

to


6,500

Before Present
Initial Early Period

(Millingstone Horizon)
This period is sometimes called "Oak Grove" but is more commonly known as "Millingstone Horizon" due to the abundance of milling stones (basin metates and manos) that appeared during this time. These were used to grind the small, hard seeds of grasses and sage, which formed a major part of the diet. Shellfish-gathering continued to supply most protein, and hunting and fishing were relatively unimportant. Pine forests were still extensive, reflecting cooler, wetter climate than today. Considerably more evidence exists for occupation during this period than the previous one.
6,500

to

5,000
Altithermal The climate of the Santa Barbara region became warmer and drier, and human population appears to have declined significantly. Few archaeological sites are known to date from this interval.
5,000

to


3,200

Before Present
Terminal Early Period This period is marked by population increase and changes in the tool kit. The appearance of stone mortars and pestles indicates that acorns had become an important food source. With large projectile points mounted on a dart thrown with the atlatl (throwing stick), people hunted large animals such as elk, deer, and sea mammals. Shellfish remained an important dietary supplement. By 5,000 BP, people speaking a "Proto-Chumash" language had become established in the Santa Barbara region; their relationship with earlier peoples is not yet clear.
3,200


to


800


Before Present
Middle Period Fishing and sea mammal hunting became more important. New inventions, including shell hooks and barbed harpoons, enabled the Chumash to catch a wider variety of fishes. A very significant innovation occurred about 2,000 BP -- the tomol, or plank canoe. Intensified fishing led to population increase and large, permanent coastal settlements. For hunting and defense, the bow and arrow replaced the atlatl and dart about 1,500 BP. Two long droughts affected much of Southern California, the Great Basin and Southwest between about 1,100 and 700 BP. Warfare increased at this time due to competition over scarce resources.
800 years
Before Present



to




Missionization
Late Period Marine fishing remained a major part of Chumash subsistence. Sardines taken with nets were particularly important. Hunting of land animals and gathering of wild plants -- including acorns and various seeds -- supplemented the marine diet. Growth of seed-bearing plants was promoted through selective burning. Two-thirds of the Chumash population lived near the coast. Use of shell bead money, produced mostly on the Northern Channel Islands, indicates increased importance of trade between communities to buffer local shortfalls of wild food resources. Warfare resulting from trespass in hunting-gathering-fishing territories was prevalent at the time of European contact. Missionization of the Chumash, which took place from AD 1772 to 1822, resulted in abandonment of many former subsistence practices in favor of agriculture and animal husbandry.


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This Tishle' blade is the only surviving example of a Chumash tomol paddle. The paddle was collected during Vancouver's visit to the Santa Barbara area in 1793 and presently resides in the British Museum collection.

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