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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An Incised Soapstone Object from Johnson's Landing, Santa Catalina Island, California


A final thought concerning the size and shape of many incised and engraved objects found in the Chumash and Gabrielino territory involves the importance of these variables in understanding social or ceremonial behavior. The objects which have been previously discussed have varied from simple to complex, bulky to fragile, drilled to undrilled, and elaborate to simple designs. The study of the variability in design motif, size, and shape of these incised objects centers on the question: "Does the variability in the elements that make up the object reflect differences in function, customs, norms, or beliefs?" To an extent we could say yes, since a heavy, undrilled, comal-like object would not necessarily have functioned in the same manner as a small, drilled, fragile pendant. However, they both could have been carried, used as status or wealth indicators, and functioned in a ceremonial context. It is possible that the craftsman who manufactured these objects did so at the request of chiefs, shamans, or high-status individuals. However, they may represent the personal artistic freedom of the craftsman, or be manufactured as amorphous forms to be further designed or elaborated on by their owners. If there were soapstone specialists performing the technical aspects of shaping and designing the particular objects based on demand or their own creative, artistic abilities, then the ultimate function of objects such as the one found at Johnson's Landing could have had some relationship to their design motifs, sizes, and shapes.

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