Last week I spent twelve hours hiking around an area of the woods that I was not familiar with and stumbled across a Chumash pictograph site that I did not know existed, and which I had never seen photos of.
I had been hiking over rugged terrain when I walked up on a sandstone outcrop that stood like a wall against a steep hillside. I stopped in my tracks staring at the rock overhang. Well, well, well, looky what we have here, I thought. It was an X marks the spot moment. Due to its form, prominence and location it was a feature of the landscape well worth taking a closer look at. There is something about rocky outcrops that never cease to attract my attention and lure me in. And this one at first glance felt like a site long visited by humans.
I pulled apart stringy, elongated branches of poison oak and carefully approached the outcrop, scanning its entirety and taking in the whole scene. As I stepped closer my frame of focus tightened and an inch wide ruddle-hued stain on the surface of the sandstone seized my eye; the quintessential telltale trace of prehistoric rock art. Aha! I glanced leftward and saw a panel of highly eroded pictographs about one square foot in size. Inspecting further, a few minutes later, I found several other faded paintings.
The sandstone is extremely flaky and constantly sloughing off, the lithic equivalent to a human face enduring the deep exfoliation of a chemical peel. Slabs of rock have fallen to the ground through the years and piled up and are in the process of being buried under sand and soil and grown over by annual grasses. Along the foot of the outcrop a massive chunk of stone that slid off the cliff face at some point is stuck into the ground on its edge. The semi-buried slab has several paintings on it and the soil level reaches right up to the bottom of the art. Perhaps other pictographs are buried. Beside it another slab of painted stone has fallen free and sits amidst a jumble of rock shards. It’s impossible to tell, however, whether the slabs were painted prior to having slid off of the outcrop or after.