These are an artist's rendition of the sun-like designs found in Chumash rock paintings. The Sun and its movements were very important to the Chumash.
Click on image for full size
Corel Photography

The Chumash Tribe

The sky and the heavens impacted every part of the life of the Chumash. Like the Pawnee, the Chumash of California also had a ranking for those objects they saw in the sky. It is important to keep in mind that these objects were also supernatural beings to the Chumash. The ranking is as follows:
  • 1st - The Sun who was seen as an aged widower carrying a blazing torch
  • 2nd - The Moon, a female god who controlled human health especially the menstrual cycle of women
  • 3rd - Venus as the morning star, a kind god. Then Venus as the evening star, the evil chief of the underworld
The Chumash believed in supernatural forces and beings and they believed that humans could influence those forces for good or for evil. The most important time of the year for the Chumash was right before the winter solstice. They believed that this was the time when the Sun might not choose to come back to the Earth. This would've obviously affected life on Earth and so it is not surprising that the Chumash took it upon themselves to influence the Sun to come back since it was a matter of life and death. The Chumash people held times of prayer and dancing that would last for several days. They observed the Sun by putting sun sticks and poles in the ground. This vigilance was meant to pull the Sun back to Earth.

The Chumash natives were hunter-gatherers. Our normal preception of hunter-gatherer people is that they must've had a limited intellect. But, the Chumash prove us wrong. The Chumash had a certain sophistication of society, of religion and of astronomical practices. They named an enormous number of stars. They kept astronomical records on tally cords and notched sticks. Sun shrines and observatories exist all over California. It is thought that the Chumash might have used these to observe the solstice occurences. Finally, they painted beautiful rock art of astronomical occurences. These ancient people show an intellect and creativity that we don't often credit them with.

Last modified September 17, 2000 by Jennifer Bergman.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Native American Astronomy

By 30,000 B.C,. Asian hunter-gatherers had crossed the Bering Strait into North America. These people were the first to inhabit this new land and so they are known as the Native Americans of North America....more


"The movements of the heavenly bodies are an admirable thing, well known and manifest to all peoples. There are no people, no matter how barbaric and primitive, that do not raise up their eyes, take note,...more

The Stones of Carnac

The stones of Carnac, France, are probably the most famous stones markings outside of those found at Stonehenge in England. Where Stonehenge is composed of standing stones, the Carnac area has many different...more

The Cairns of Clava

Not too far from Loch Ness, where the green highlands of Scotland rise and fall there lies three giant cairns of stones. They are called the Balnuaran of Clava. The Balnuaran of Clava, giant tombs encased...more


This is an aerial view of Cuzco. In the center of the picture, the cathedral of Cuzco can be seen. This cathedral was built in the 17th century. Cuzco is located in Southern Peru. It is the ancient capital...more

The Stones of Fossa

The stone structures of England and France are very famous. But, one can also find stone rings, tombs, and dolmen structures in present-day Italy. One such megalithic structure is a site in Fossa, Abruzzo....more

Kepler's Second Law: The Speeds of Planets

Kepler's second law he again discovered by trial and error. After some experimentation, Kepler realized that the line connecting the planet and the Sun sweeps out equal area in equal time. Look at the...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA