The Chumash have lived along the western edge of the United States in the central coast region of California for many thousands of years (refer to Chumash Villages figure). Since the end of the last ice age until just two hundred years ago, these people had a rich and complex history, utilizing a wide variety of plant and animal resources in the ocean and on the land. During this time they invented many different items including different types of canoes, fishing technology, spear throwers and bows and arrows, acorn technology and monetary systems. They developed into a large complex and successful culture that adapted to many changes and pressures in the world around them.

Archaeological evidence has revealed that the ancestors of the Obispeño and Purisimeño settled in northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County more than 9,000 years ago. Following an annual cycle of hunting, fishing, fowling and harvesting, the Chumash peoples adapted to changing environmental and social conditions and grew into a large complex society which persists today. The long history of the Chumash and their ancestors has been divided into three major periods: Early, Middle and Late, based on general patterns of social, technological and subsistence changes observable in the archaeological record.

About four hundred years ago, in 1542, with the beginning of European exploration of the oceans, the Chumash along the coast began to see Spanish, Portuguese and other European sailing vessels passing along their territory following the Pacific Ocean currents. Two hundred years later the first Spanish land expeditions crossed through Chumash territory and within a few years, Franciscan missions were established within Chumash territory. The missions began recruiting and baptizing people and by about 1750, all the native villages were abandoned. Introduction to European diseases, changes in diet and other factors led to the death of many Chumash people, resulting in a population decrease of fifty-percent within a single generation. The Chumash people, however, survived through the Spanish mission period and next encountered the brief Mexican control of their land. This was followed by the United States' purchase of the territory and the announcement of statehood for California in 1850.

The Chumash society continues today, many living in the same general areas as their ancestors. The Chumash practice a modern way of life in many respects but also follow many of the same values and beliefs as their ancestors. The Chumash continue to be the caretakers of Mother Earth in their ancestral homeland.

Beginning in 1979, Lompoc archaeologist Larry Spanne conducted systematic surface surveys of the entire Guadalupe Oil Field. He recorded six prehistoric archaeological sites, which consisted primarily of small weathered fragments of sea shell, stone tools and stone tool manufacturing debris, burnt rock and occasionally, animal bone. The sites varied in location from near the Santa Maria River to well inland away from the river or beaches. They also varied greatly in size from 15 to 1,500 feet in diameter. Carbon-14 dating of several of these sites indicate that the Chumash utilized the Guadalupe Dunes in the period from about 500 to 1500.

The Guadalupe Dunes is a special area of archaeological interest. The area falls in a transition zone between two linguistically diverse groups of Chumash: Purisimeño and Obispeño. This transition or boundary zone between population centers may have also existed for the prehistoric ancestors of these two groups. Archaeological sites located in the dunes could yield data on relationships between these various groups and their population centers through time. The dune area is significant in that archaeological deposits remain in a good state of preservation. Many archaeological sites may have been covered by sand over the centuries since they were occupied. One such site was recently discovered about five feet beneath the surface during archaeological monitoring of a remediation excavation on the south part of the Project area. It is also possible that special types of archaeological sites may be discovered that are represented by extremely small or fragile deposits including rest stops along trails, or collection areas of special resources such as asphaltum globules on the beach.

A comprehensive program of archaeological monitoring has been developed to accompany excavation and remediation activities in many locations of the former Guadalupe Oil Field. Chumash representatives, a geomorphologist and archaeologists have systematically monitored project activities to document the fragile record of Chumash history in the Guadalupe Dunes.

A self-guided Archaeological and Geomorphological Field Trip of the former Guadalupe Oil Field has been developed. As the Guadalupe Oil Field is currently closed to the public, photos have been included with the tour narrative. Click on the "Field Trip Stops" for a description and photo of each location.