Local California History 
Local California Chronology
1: The First Settlers
The First European Contact 
(revised 7 October 2001) 
Work in progress 
25,000- 10,000 BP  

Hunting peoples of north-east Asia followed herds of Caribou, bison, and mammoth across the present day Bering Strait, which at several points in this period was a grassy plain a thousand miles broad. They then moved south along ice-free corridors into the American continents. (People may have entered before the last ice age and/or by boat before the ice corridors opened; see the peopling of the Americas.)

13,000 BP   Date of Arlington Springs Woman, found on the islands in recent digs. Her presence on the island at this early date is consistent with the hypothesis that migrations into the new world took place by sea.
12,500 BP    The Santa Barbara Channel Islands were settled; fire-reddened earth from more than a hundred fire sites date from this period. Because glaciers tied up more of the earth's water, the islands were less than half the current distance from the shore; up until around 17,000 BP, the islands were all joined into one, Santa Rosae. No settlements from this period have been found on the mainland in the Santa Barbara area, possibly because the camps were along the shore and are now submerged.
10,000 BP    The local population of dwarf mammoth went extinct, possibly from hunting; teeth found charred by fire.
9,000 BP  

In 1914, the remains of a young woman were uncovered at the Rancho La Brea tar pits, the only prehistoric human remains found at the site. Her skull and partial skeleton is preserved in The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. She is believed to have been about 22-24 years old and stood about 4 feet 10 inches (1.5 meters) tall. Wear on her surviving teeth indicated a diet of stone-ground meal. Her skull was fractured which suggests that a blow to the head may have killed her. A broken grinding stone and the remains of a domestic dog were found nearby.

This period is also the likely date of Los Angeles Man, excavated in 1936. The mineralized cranium of his skull was discovered in the Ballona Creek in West Los Angeles (cf. Altschul et al., 1992).

8,000 BP Early Period Possible date of the settlement of the Southern California Coast by Chumash. Semi-sedentary groups in the Santa Barbara area. The most common artifacts are milling slabs (metates) and hand stones (manos), for grinding small, hard seeds from grasses and sage. Stone tools are made by the percussion method. A village in Glen Annie carbondated to 7,300 BP.
5,000 BP Middle Period Settled villages near estuaries, with large middens. Basketry and other remains indicate people were eating acorns, which requires an elaborate prior processing to remove toxins. Mortars and pestles are more common than milling stones. Use of asphaltum for water-proofing. 

The period sees an increased reliance on hunting, probably due to the population pressure. The development of the throwing stick (atlatl) with projectile points increased the killing range of the hunter. Remains have been found of deer, bear, elk, mountain lion, porpoise, fur seal, and sea lion. Fine knives formed by pressure flaking, drills, and fish hooks speak to an increasingly sophisticated technology. 

Burials now have more artifacts, including objects made of bone, and ornaments.

2,000 BP Late Period Very large coastal villages; fewer people in the interior and on the islands. Evidence of alliances and warfare. Staples are fish and acorns. "Chumash" means islander in the language of the mainland peoples; around 15,000 individuals lived in the Santa Barbara area in year 1500, which was one of the highest densities in pre-conquest North America. In Santa Barbara, the local province capital was Syuhtun, with 800 inhabitants. In spite of such high densities, the population did not have to engage in agriculture (cf. agriculture in the New World); the natural resources of the area were exceptionally high. 

There was, however, an increasing division of labor, for instance for making huge soapstone jars and bowls, and finely wrought and patterned ornaments. There were also specialized workers for building plank canoes (tomol); these were twenty feet long and took several specialized groups six months to construct. Bow and arrows replace the atlatl; arrow shafts straighteners are found from 500AD. Commerce is extensive; shell beads used for money date from 800AD. There were also ball games and musical instruments (flutes). 

Burials are increasingly elaborate, recent finds include a large swordfish headdress.

200-500 AD   A continental drought provokes wide-ranging migrations. The Tongva, or Gabrielinos, who speak Shoson, a Uto-Aztec language, come down from the Mojave and settle in the Los Angeles basin, displacing the Hokan speakers, relatives of the Chumash. Experts in irrigation, the Gabrielinos construct a network of canals that permit a relatively large human population. Between 40 and 60 indigenous villages are established from San Bernardino to Santa Mónica, including on the islands Santa Catalina, San Nicolás, and San Clemente.
Local California History 
The First European Contact 
Next: the First European Contact 
Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Department of English, UC Santa Barbara