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.
Look closely at the crack line in the center of the frame. The faded remnant half of what looks something like a lizard or newt can barely be seen; a head arm and foot.
You might try running DStretch (http://www.dstretch.com/), a false-color image enhancement tool, on any pictures you take of rock art. I’ve used it on the couple backcountry sites I’ve found and it’s pretty amazing how much detail it can bring out.
Hey Greg. Thanks for that suggestion. I had planned on doing that before making this post and including the DStretch images for comparison with the original photos, but I never got around to emailing a request for the software.
Sent from Jim’s iPad
Fantastic! Rock art is so amazing. What a find!
Jack, I’ve never been to this site, but I think I have an old write-up about it (Heizer? Lee? Somebody …). If I can find it I’ll get a copy to you. Great post.
Nice. That’d be cool. Thanks!
The place must have been pretty exciting to find and see.
You convey very well the sense of deep history that I feel at these sites (I do not know this one, however). What were these people doing and what message were they sending? Reminding us of the mystery of Los Padres with carefully told stories like this is a true public service.
Like Craig, some of the images at this site seem vaugely familiar to me; perhaps I’ve seen them in someone else’s writings or maybe they just remind me other similar pictographs at other sites in Los Padres. I don’t believe I’ve been to this site myself.
This looks like a place we used to call the the two walls it’s above three falls and a swimming hole if it’s the place I’m thinking of haven’t been ther in many years but the fallen block with the art on it is the tell. Thanks for the reminder!
I came upon your blog while searching for something related to Santa Barbara backcountry pictograph sites, and ended up browsing quite a bit here. I too love and appreciate the still-wild, soul-renewing places, and I just wanted to say thank you for this resource you provide. Your site is well written, beautifully documented photographically, and clearly reflects your respect, enthusiasm, and knowledge. Wonderful discovery! Since I am here, perhaps you may be interested this recent post on my own blog about a visit to another hidden pictograph site: http://www.cynthiacarbone.com/orientation/ Thanks again, Jack, and happy trails.
Hello Cynthia. Thank you for your kind words. I’m happy to hear you enjoy my blog.