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Archaeological Evidence for Post-Contact Native Religion: The Chumash Land of the Dead


Mortuary analysis of two related cemeteries in the southeastern Ventureno Chumash region suggests that, despite missionization, traditional private burial rituals were practiced postcontact. The dominant westerly orientation of the head in the Late Period Medea Creek cemetery (ca. 1300 -1785 C.E.) is still largely in evidence at the later Malibu Historic Period cemetery (1775 - 1805). Ethnographic data indicate a strong association between the direction of west, the spiritual travel of the soul, and the location of the Chumash land of the dead, which further associates with the westerly head orientation of burials.

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