Seagrass and Seaweed: Chumash Use of Marine Plants

Date and Time: 
Friday, 6 May, 2011 - 16:40 to 17:00
TIMBROOK, Jan - Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
Research on ethnobotany of the Chumash (Santa Barbara Channel region, southern California) was based on published and unpublished sources, especially John P. Harrington’s extensive field notes from his interviews with Chumash consultants, c. 1912-1960. Information on their involvement with marine plants was relatively sparse, perhaps surprising in such a coastally-oriented people.  
Most significant were the knowledge of kelp forests as good fishing grounds and the reliance on surf-grass (Phyllospadix) in material culture, documented in the archaeological record from the offshore islands. Occasional uses in food preparation, medicine and ceremony were also described. The wealth of terrestrial plant resources available to the Chumash may have reduced the importance of marine species.