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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Some Observations on Chumash Prehistoric Stone Effigies


Among the many items of material culture representative of the prehistoric cultures of coastal southern California, stone effigies have generated the greatest interest as objets d'art among both anthropologists and art collectors. These artifacts generally lack provenance data, and this has led to ambiguous functional interpretations (Greenwood 1962, 1965, 1967; Eisenbud 1964). Such objects are traditionally placed in the nebulous category of "ceremonial objects." The questionable authenticity of many specimens provides an additional complication to objective analysis. There has long been a need for a detailed description and comparison of all known specimens, many of which are now widely scattered throughout Europe and North America. Robert Wharton of the Lowie Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, and I have initiated such a project. As a preliminary step in this research I wish to present here some general observations that I have made or which are illustrated elsewhere in the literature on effigies from coastal southern California.

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