DWELLINGS, TOMOLS, AND TOOLS


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 TomolThe 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 people.

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.


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Last modified: May 09, 2003