Native American

Ear Plug

Culture/People: Chumash
Place: Central and Southern California
Media: Wood, abalone shell, and asphaltum
Dims: 2.75 x .75 in. (7 x 1.9 cm).
Date: c. 1750
RTC No: NA1414
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011


This may have been one of a pair.

The Chumash are an Indigenous people of southern California, they occupied three of the Channel Islands: Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel. Their historical impact in Southern California has governed modern place names where the Chumash once lived included Malibu, Lompoc, Ojai, Pismo Beach, Point Mugu, Piru, Lake Castaic, and the Simi Valley.

Archaeological research demonstrates that the Chumash have deep roots in the Santa Barbara Channel area and lived along the southern California Coast for millennia.

…exceptional for the abalone shell inlay which gives the ear plug a radiant iridescence. The small shell beads inset in the colorful abalone shell gives it a mystique hinting at an aura of supernatural power.  —Ralph T. Coe

Watch Leah Mata Fragua talk about this piece on Collections Spotlight, July 21, 2020.

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