Pictograph Sites
on the margins of the southern San Joaquin Valley
(click the images below for more detail)

In remote areas of the mountains that ring the south and west sides of the southern San Joaquin Valley, there are art galleries hidden away in sandstone caves and beneath the overhangs of stark, solitary rock outcrops. These art galleries are the work of the Chumash, who traded with the Tulumne Yokuts of the West Side tarpits, and the Yowlumne Yokuts of the East Side. Chumash rock art ranges from simple geometric designs to complex multicolor images of animals and events that the Chumash encountered in their everyday lives. Many believe that these pictographs were painted by Chumash shamans for religious or ceremonial reasons, possibly to influence spirits to intervene in human affairs, or perhaps for those spirits to simply stay away. But no one knows for sure, and these works of art stand out as vivid reminders of a way of life that is no more.

 

| Mutau Rock Pictographs | Painted Rock Pictographs | Alder Creek Cave Pictographs | Wind Wolves Pictographs |

 

 

Mutau Flat - Because isolated rocks were associated with spirits, perhaps even ancestors, these rocks had religious significance to the Chumash Indians, who decorated many with pictographs. Mutau Flat Rock is the most prominant of these sites in the Topatopas.

 

Painted Rock - Even more famous, and more accessable of the sacred Chumash rocks is the Painted Rock of the Carrizo Plain. Some say that its pictographs were some of the finest in North America until a vandal destroyed many of them with a shotgun.

 

Alder Creek Cave - Caves also had religious significance and were often adourned with pictographs. Remote Alder Creek Cave is the best known example in the Topatopas.

 

Wind Wolves - There are several caves with pictographs in the Wind Wolves Nature Conservancy, among them Lizard Cave and Pleito Canyon Cave, which is the one on the left. Hopefully, guided tours to these sites will become available in the future.

 

| Mutau Rock Pictographs | Painted Rock Pictographs | Alder Creek Cave Pictographs | Wind Wolves Pictographs |

 

 



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