Chumash Indian Fish Effigy

Archaeological  Artifact: 

Artifact Description :

This is a Californian Chumash Indian Fish Effigy and was recovered  about 50 inches deep in an archaeological site in San Luis Obispo County, California in 1996, by California State Parks Archaeologist Richard Fitzgerald.

Measuring 71.3 mm long, 39.9 mm wide, 28.6 mm thick and weighing 117.2 grams, it fits easily into the palm of one’s hand.  Rendered from a quartzite pebble with a football shape, the figure upon first glance appears to be a notched stone or fishing net weight.  Visible on one pointed end are very fine incised concentric circles that encompass and highlight the incision. These delicately carved circles make a clear impression of the markings around the mouth of a fish.

Other common forms of effigies include sea mammals such as whales, seabirds and canoes.

According to Chumash Indian historians, carved stone objects were used as charms to ensure luck in fishing or hunting. The magical qualities of these types of objects were believed to be obtained from the guidance of a spirit helper and the talisman was useless to anyone except its owner and therefore was buried with them.

Many archaeologically documented effigies have been recovered in California from more recent time periods (circa AD 1000 to 1800’s).  However, the importance of this Chumash Fish Effigy is that it dates back to about  7,000 BC.  It also indicates the economic and ritual importance fish and other marine animals had for those early inhabitants of the California central coast.

Where this artifact is located:   Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

For More Information On This Artifact Email Archaeologist  Richard Fitzgerald

Important Terms to Learn:

Effigy:    A talisman consisting of a stone, bone, or wooden zoomorphic or anthropomorphic representation.

Kalquniha’s:   The Chumash Indian word for an effigy.