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Posts Tagged ‘history of california’

I’m embarrassed to say I know next to nothing about the history of Southern California.  And it is a most fascinating history that starts with a fascinating culture – The Chumash.

You can gather the history from other sources.  What surprised me was the speed at which the Chumash population disappeared.  In 1769 a Spanish expedition arrived along the Santa Barbara coast and within 60 years this population was a mere 10% of its peak.

No, not a unique tale at that time.

What’s remarkable is that this coastline had been inhabited by  largely isolated bands of Chumash for at least 10,000 years.  In 60 years, poof.

The Chumash society was fairly complex with all the tricked out social things we “expect” – currency, division of labor, geo political systems, etc. etc.  Of particular interest is that this culture was a hunter-gather culture, not yet farming.  Again, not a totally unique tale, but certainly more rare and worthy of study to understand how various aspects of culture play out under less common contingencies.

The language is very cool and is what’s called linguistic isolate – this language was not derived from any other language.  There are many isolates (language has to start somewhere!), so that’s not unique (look at a few more from North America).  What is unique goes back to the idea that this language had basically been developed in isolation for well over 10,000 years.  Again, not unique, but rare and probably worth more intensive study.

Plenty more to research.  I’m working through the first book in this list of publications from UC Press.

Cool stuff.

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