Chumash Pictograph Sites
on the south margin of the San Joaquin Valley
(click the images below for more detail)

In remote areas of the San Emigdio, Topatopa and Temblor Mountains on the south side of the San Joaquin Valley, there are art galleries hidden away in sandstone caves and beneath the overhangs of solitary rock outcrops. These galleries are the work of the Emigdiano Chumash people, who traded with the Tulumne Yokuts and Yowlumne Yokuts of the valley floor. Chumash rock art ranges from simple pictographs with geometric designs to complex multicolor images of animals and events that the Chumash encountered in their everyday lives. Some believe that these images were created 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. Others believe that the images are the work artisans simply seeking an outlet for their creativity. 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.

 

| Alder Creek Cave | Lockwood Creek | Mutau Rock | Painted Rock | Wind Wolves | Glossary |

 

 

Alder Creek Cave - Caves probably had religious significance and many are adourned with pictographs. Remote Alder Creek Cave is one of the better examples in the Topatopa Mountains. The rock art here is likely the work of the Cepsey (Sespe) band of the Ventureno Chumash.

 

Lockwood Creek - Rock overhangs and rock shelters were also decorated with pictographs by the Chumash. This large overhang near the Three Falls Boy Scout Camp is a classic example, with a few simple pictographs and two bedrock mortars protected beneath an overhang. The rock art here is the work of an unknown band of either Ventureno or Emigdiano Chumash.

 

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 Topatopa Mountains. The rock art here is the work of an unknown band of either Ventureno or Emigdiano Chumash.

 

Painted Rock - Even more famous, and more accessable of the sacred Chumash rocks is the Painted Rock of the Carrizo Plain. Its pictographs were among some of the finest in North America until a local with a gun used them for target practice. The rock art here is likely the work of the Kuyam band of the Cuyama Chumash.

 

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. The rock art here is likely the work of the Tashlipun band of the Emigdiano Chumash.

 

| Alder Creek Cave | Lockwood Creek | Mutau Rock | Painted Rock | Wind Wolves | Glossary |

 

 



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