The Chumash house was called an 'ap, and was very peculiar in both
construction and design. The dwelling was made from bent willow
poles arranged in semi-circular fashion and covered with surf grass.
The houses had an opening in the roof to allow cooking smoke o escape
when food has to be prepared indoors due to rain. One very
unique feature sometimes found on Chumash 'aps was a doorframe made
out of a whale's rib. For added privacy, deer skins were hung in
the entranceway. Most 'aps measure about 20 feet in
diameter, but the Chief's home was usually at least 15 feet larger.
The Chumash also built sweat house, or 'apa'yik, so that hunters
could by digging large holes in the ground which they would cover with
a a sturdy roof which featured an opening so that the men could climb
down into it. Inside, rocks were heated to keep the air
extremely warm, as in a sauna, with the main purpose of this practice
being the elimination of toxins from the body. Sometimes, herbs
were burned in the house to mask the hunters' natural scents so that
they would not be detected by the animals. Women used their own
sweathouses to purify themselves during their menstrual cycle.
Chumash used plank canoes called tomols for fishing and traveling
between villages on the Pacific coast. The tomol was
perhaps one of the most important tools in use by the Chumash,
The average tomols measured between 10 and 30 feet in length, about
twice the size of a regular canoe, and able to carry as many as ten
Tomols were built out of several layers of redwood planks, lashed
together with natural fiber cordage, glued and sealed with natural tar
(asphaltum) and pine pitch. Needless to say, this task required
many weeks of work by the best Chumash craftsmen, not to mention the
time it must have taken to gather the necessary materials.
The Chumash used harpoons and curved hooks for fishing, and they
used smoke fans (to smoke small animals out of their holes), spears,
bows and arrows for hunting. The Chumash were highly skilled
arrow makers, having created many different kinds of arrowheads,
including some dipped in rattlesnake venom.
As they were skilled at making arrows, the Chumash also used shells
and sharp stones for making cutlery. They also made stone bowls,
but their real specialty was basket weaving.
The Chumash were, and are still renowned for their basketry.
Chumash baskets were used as infants carriers, for storing valuables,
food, water, and even cooking. Chumash women used twined and
coiling methods for making baskets, using juncus plant stalks which
had been dyed by either being buried in mud or soaked in water with
iron, taking on a rust color. Designs included zigzag patterns,
stepped lines, and horizontal bands of color, with one typically set
around the rim.