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The Chumash and the swordfish

  • Demorest Davenport (a1), John R. Johnson (a2) and Jan Timbrook (a2)

Linguistic, ethnographic, archaeological and technical evidence demonstrates the mythological and ceremonial importance of the swordfish in Chumash culture. From at least the 1st century AD, there existed among the Chumash of the Santa Barbara region, California, a productive fishery for swordfish (Xiphias gladius) by harpoon. The probability is that a shamanistic cult was intended to bring this great ‘master of the sea’ within reach of fishermen and to persuade it occasionally to drive whales ashore, making their meat available. Evidence from a number of world-wide sources shows that this Chumash belief was, indeed, founded in fact.

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