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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Chia and the Chumash: A Reconsideration of Sage Seeds in Southern California


The arguments in this paper address the Chumash in the historic and late prehistoric periods. As of now, there is no real evidence that the Chumash ate seeds of any species of Salvia other than S. columbariae (chia) and perhaps S. carduacea (thistle sage). This is not a mystery. Preferential selection of foods with better flavor-which in turn is related to nutritional factors-has been included in some general models of hunter-gatherer subsistence, but has been largely ignored in the literature on southern California prehistory. It may be particularly relevant among groups like the Chumash, where the economic base was secure enough to permit the luxury of choice.

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