Friday, May 6, 2011

Chowigna Villages

Under some condominiums built in the Malaga Cove area of Palos Verdes, very near Torrance, are the remains of villages that date back over 7000 years. Yes, seven thousand. People were living there and eating raw shellfish.

At various times over the millennia, other groups made their homes there. The most recent prehistoric settlers were a branch of the Tongva people called Chowigna. The Malaga Cove site was excavated in 1936-37 by the Southwest Museum and USC, and thousands of artifacts were catalogued.

The picture here is of a Santa Fe Springs Interpretive Center model home--I borrow it from one Tongva tribal website (there is more than one).

The Tongva lived in Palos Verdes from around 1000 AD to around the mid-1700s. They used pots and ornaments made from soapstone from Catalina Island--proof of a flourishing trade. Other villages dotted the Peninsula--Archaeologist William Wallace told the LA Times in 1971 that he knew of at least 70 sites, though he hadn't excavated all of them.

The Tongva villagers left behind glass beads, traded from the Spanish, and shortly after that the village was abandoned when at least 150 people (possibly the entire village population) were taken to the Mission San Gabriel.

All this and a bit more are in an article I wrote for that ran last Monday. Wikipedia also has a  lot of info about Tongva villages.

The most intriguing bit of information I learned is that the largest village in the area. Suang Na, was on Lake Machado in Harbor City--but nobody knows exactly what side of the lake. It hasn't been found or excavated, iow. I'm not suggesting anyone start digging now, but it is nice to know that there is lots for us still to learn.

No comments: