Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pictures on Rocks

Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo County, California
February 18, 2010

I have driven through the Carrizo Plain several times over the last few years but never really stopped to smell the roses that this national monument offered. On my way back to Lompoc from the Mojave Desert, I decided I would stop at one of these roses, the Painted Rock.  Painted Rock is a horseshoe-shaped formation of sandstone rocks with Native American pictographs. One of the three major forms of Native American rock art, a pictograph as defined by the Archaeology Wordsmith is "Any design, picture, or drawing painted on a surface (usually rock/stone) and used to represent a thing, action, or event. Pictographs are believed to be the earliest form in the development of writing (pictography). It represents a form of nonverbal communication used by non-literate people."

Painted Rock from afar
Access to Painted Rock is restricted from late winter to early summer when flowers are in bloom but I was ahead of this restricted period by 10 days. After an easy three-mile hike from the Goodwin Education Center, I approached Painted Rock, a sore thumb sticking out on one of the few remaining native grasslands in California. I did not see any pictures on the outside of the rocks, but when I went inside the horseshoe, a multitude of  pictographs of the Chumash, Salinan, and Yokut greeted me. Many of drawings hold their vivid colors even after all these years. The pictographs are considered prehistoric, but there was lesser history to be seen in what I like to dub as historic graffiti. Where was H. McL of Bakersfield on August 8, 1885? He was at the Painted Rock chiseling his name into the sandstone next to the pictographs. He did a fine job of chiseling ... I guess his last name was too long and he did not have the time to chronicle his entire name to posterity.

I would chronicle my visit in a manner that is less intrusive and more fitting for our times—photographs and a blog post.

Painted Rock

The horseshoe of Painted Rock

Pictographs on the inner walls of Painted Rock

Historic graffiti on Painted Rock

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