Bead Exchange among the Historic Kumeyaay Indians
2013-09-12T15:18:16Z (GMT) by
The focus of my research is to describe, analyze, and explain the unusual spike in the number of shell and glass beads at selected Kumeyaay sites in San Diego County during the Historic Period. The reasons for this apparent increase in bead use are problematic, but one explanation is the profound impact of Spanish colonial presence on Native populations and the resultant sociocultural transformations made by indigenous groups. I demonstrate that the demographic disruption ensuing from the Spanish incursion led to a revitalization movement which dispersed from the greater Los Angeles area to the inland areas of southern California. Called the Chingichngish cult, the new religion melded traditional ceremonial life with a new set of rituals. This new ceremonialism was infused with the intensive use of beads, and it is likely that this created the exponential appearance of larger numbers of Class H beads at numerous inland historic sites in the region. Using archaeological and historical data, I show that the beads analyzed in the various collections were tied to various exchange networks which operated over extant trails and travel corridors and that Class H shell beads were inextricably tied to the new religion. The vastly greater number of these beads at inland Kumeyaay sites is likely the result of intensified on-site ritualism and the concomitant increase in bead exchange.