Sunday, August 9, 2020

Conejo Valley Chumash Rock Art Cave

I've been exploring the Thousand Oaks area a lot recently. Mostly I've been hiking the trails near the Chumash Museum since I live very close to it. On this day I decided to drive down a couple of miles down and check out the Lake Eleanor area. I pulled off the road to eat my lunch before hiking. I was going to take a little walk around the large rock formation that loomed to west. But before I got out of my car a couple parked in front of me and started to walk the trail. Wanting to limit my contact with people as much as possible I decided to try a different direction. There was a rock formation on the other side of the road that had caught my eye earlier. It looked pretty easy to get to, so I crossed the road and looked for a trail to lead me to the top on the hill. There were a lot of crisscrossing trails, but it was easy enough to find my way up to the rocks. On my way up the trail I found a nice, old, rusty, pull-tab Olympia Beer can half buried in the ground. 

Another can for the collection

The rock formation was pretty neat. It was the classic molar poking up out the ground with a overhanging ledge that created a "cave" if you will. There was dry creek bed nearby that always seems to be a part of the recipe for a Chumash site. I hoping to find some mortar holes drilled in the rock. I didn't find any mortars, but I did find two paintings on the underside of the aforementioned overhang. 

Now these have the look of Chumash paintings. And the location lends itself to be a good site for Chumash  rock art, but I have some real doubts about the authenticity of these particular paintings. First off the lower painting is orange. That's not a color I know the VentureƱo Chumash to have ever used. There are some sites up in Kern county like Pleito Cave that used orange pigment, but red, white, black are the colors I'm familiar seeing here in Ventura. Maybe it's red pigment that has aged strangely? It seems unlikely to me.

The upper painting is much more like something I would expect to see here. The red pigment is very much like other rock art sites I have visited. Referencing Campbell Grant's The Rock Paintings of the Chumash (figure 68), the diamond pattern and concentric circles are design elements that were used by the Chumash. But the sharpness of the "X" in the center just seemed a little unauthentic to me. If it had been there by itself I probably would  have believed that I had found a genuine Chumash pictograph. However, with my skepticism of the lower painting's origins I feel like this might not be an ancient Chumash painting either. But I'm not an authority on these things, I'm just some guy who likes to hike and explore.

If you know anything about this painting one way or the other I would love here about it. Also feel free to give your two cents in the comment area below.