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January 8, 2020

SB Museum of Natural History Publishes New Volume on History of Chumash Settlement at Goleta Slough

The Department of Anthropology at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has just published a fourth volume in its Contributions in Anthropology series, which aims to make available the findings of local archaeological research. The new monograph Goleta Slough Prehistory: Insights Gained From a Vanishing Archaeological Record was edited by UCSB Department of Anthropology Professor Emeritus Michael A. Glassow, Ph.D., who specializes in the Santa Barbara Channel region between 7,000 and 5,000 years ago.

The collected chapters of the monograph by various anthropologists share information about the long history of human settlement at Goleta Slough, particularly at the Chumash village known as Helo’ established on the hill between Goleta Beach and what is now the Santa Barbara Airport. Helo’ was one of numerous Chumash towns in the Goleta Valley, which may have been one of the most densely inhabited zones in aboriginal California. The surrounding area of Goleta Slough was once a much larger estuary, offering abundant natural resources to the people who fished, hunted, foraged, and traded there.

Curator of Anthropology John R. Johnson, Ph.D., is the author of the second chapter, which draws on his expertise in Mission-era records to illuminate the socioeconomic ties among Goleta Valley Chumash towns and those of the wider region. Dr. Johnson traces the kinship relations of chiefs to trace networks of influence that bound together the towns at Goleta Slough and those inland and on the Channel Islands.

As Johnson explains, some of the modern research in the new volume revisits the earliest anthropological work done at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History by David Banks Rogers, the institution’s first anthropology curator: “The sites covered in this 314-page volume were first described by David Banks Rogers in our Museum’s first-published book, Prehistoric Man on the Santa Barbara Coast (1929). The volume updates Rogers’s study by including detailed analyses of midden constituents, reconstruction of the paleo-environment, and placement of sites in their chronological context through radiocarbon dating.”

Work by Rogers and others salvaged important artifacts and cultural knowledge in danger of being swept away by development in the region. The series in general helps to make research available on development sites where assessment has been required prior to potential land disturbance. Outside of hearings on development projects, these government-mandated reports seldom make it into the public eye, so the series brings relevance and transparency to local archaeological work.

Goleta Slough Prehistory is now available in the Museum Store.

For more information on the Museum’s Department of Anthropology, visit

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