Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Channel Islanders Used Local Tar Balls for Tools

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

(Daniel Tzvi)SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA—Archaeologist Kaitlin Brown of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her team have analyzed artifacts from the Channel Islands to learn where the proto-Chumash obtained most of their raw petroleum for tool-making. They had two options: malak, or sea-borne bitumen that washes up on shore, and woqo, which is found on the mainland. Woqo was thought to have been the more highly prized resource and would have to have been imported, but the scientists found that the material in the ancient tools was similar to the local tar balls. “We find that native islanders would use asphaltum from locally available sources and did not need to rely on mainland asphaltum exchange for their everyday needs,” Brown told Western Digs.