Tuesday, February 15, 2011

02-06-2011 Chumash Pictograph Cave

We took a trip up the San Marcos Pass this weekend. We wanted to get out and see some Chumash Rock Art. First we went to the Santa Barbara Painted Cave. This is a world famous site. Directions to this site are easy to find. Heck, I'll give 'em to you right now. Go up the Pass (Hwy 154), turn right on Painted Cave Road, and keep driving until you see the sign for the cave on your left. It's impossible to miss. I don't think I need to go into the details of the picto site. There's a big gate at the opening of the cave to protect the paintings from vandals. I think that gate has been up for something like a hundred years.

I've always thought that painting in the upper right looks like a bird wearing a top hat.

From there we kept heading up the Pass. We turned off on to a road that most Santa Barbarians are familiar with. It takes you up the mountain, and has some incredible views of Santa Barbara, and the Channel Islands. There are many different trails up there. It's a very popular area for Boulder-ers, and climbers.


The trail was easy enough to find from the spot where we parked. It was just a short stroll of a couple hundred yards. I had gotten this far about a year ago when I first read about this site. But I wasn't able to find the use trail to the cave that time. This time I had some better instructions thanks to a nice guy who told me how to find the cave. There was a small sign asking for visitors to respectful. I knew then that I must have been very close to the cave. I yelled back to the others to come on down. Then I walked around a bend in the trail and there it was. I was so happy.

Sorry, this was the best pano I could make.
There were Chumash paintings scattered all over the rock. In contrast to the nearby trichrome (red, white, and black) pictos in the Painted Cave these all seemed to be monochrome (red). A lot of the paintings were damaged either by the elements, and time or by vandals.




Damage from a vandal.

Off on one side there were stairs carved into the rock. Near those stairs was another small cave with a few paintings as well. Here's a short video I took of the site.


I was rewatching the movie The Cave Paintings of the Chumash Indians, and I noticed in the part where Campbell Grant is introduced he's walking around this site (it's at the beginning of part 2)(Sorry, it looks like the person who put the video up on Youtube has taken it down). Also according to that movie there are only two attempts at realism in Chumash rock art (About 8:30 in the second part). One is the swordfish in Swordfish Cave, up in Lompoc, I think. To me the swordfish isn't that "realistic", but I suppose it's a fair attempt at it. The other is the "Four Horse Men" down in Malibu.

The Four Horsemen

That is definitely a unique set of paintings. The movie states that it depicts some horse riders from the Bautista Expedition. But I think Portola came through first.


I would argue that this hand from the cave we visited this day seems to be a fairly realistic painting as well. By that I mean there's no question of what it 's depicting, a hand. The late Mr. Grant talks about hand motifs in rock art in his book, Rock Art of the American Indians. He states that it is the oldest motif in native rock art around the world. He mentions examples from other tribes, but makes no mention of the Chumash. If this is a common motif among indigenous cultures I would think this particular painting would be very significant as it is the only example in Chumash rock art of this motif. I would be very interested in hearing what anybody thinks about this. Feel free to leave a comment below.

After we took pictures we explored the rest of the area. Up the stairs was more cool rock formations, and some unpainted caves. A little bit below the site is a small pool formed by a trickle of a stream. It was quite pleasant.


We found one more small cave that had some more paintings. We ate lunch in one those nearby unpainted caves. Then we headed back up the trail to the car. We then drove up to another nearby rock formation to take in the view. We hopped around on the rocks up there for a while. Then it was time to head home, and catch the Superbowl. Please feel free to leave a comment, or ask a question.

1 comment:

  1. I went up there last week but could not find it,was it close to the gun range on the same side of the road ? Very far away from the street ?

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