Painted Rock (Carizzo Plain)
Cuyama Chumash Pictographs

The Chumash used paints made from natural pigments, which were collected, crushed in stone mortars, and mixed with water, animal fat, seed oils, or juice from the milkweed plant. Red, orange and yellow pigments came from soils in the Sierra foothills colored by the iron oxides hematite and goethite, white came from a rock known as diatomite that outcrops on the westside and is composed of the shells of tiny marine organisms, and black came from charcoal. Painting was done with fingers, sticks, or brushes made from animal tails, feathers, or bundled fibers from frayed yucca leaves or crushed soap plants. Sometimes a lump of hardened pigment was used as a crayon to draw directly on a stone wall.

Some images are easy to interpret and represent animals of the forests, rivers, and deserts. A few are anthropomorphic images (human-like) that might represent members of the spirit world, and still others are strange abstract designs, the meaning of which has been lost to the ages. The images at Alder Creek Cave, Mutau Flats, and other sites in the Topatopa Mountains are strikingly similar, and it seems likely that these represent the work of painters from the same clan. By contrast, images at other Chumash sites, such as at Wind Wolves in the San Emigdio Mountains and Painted Rock in the southern Temblors, are different, and these may represent the work of different clans, each with their own family traditions, shamans, and ceremonies.




Some Pictograph Images from Painted Rock

Painted Rock today is part of the Carizzo Plain National Monument, which means that is protected. However, the pictographs here prior to 2001 were open to all forms of access and subject to vandalism, which resulted in considerable damage to the site when local ranchers used the pictographs for target practice. See our section on Lost or Damaged Sites for some pictures on how the site looked before this damage took place.

Painted Rock was also used as a livestock corral by early settlers of the Carrizo Plain

Grafitti and Bedrock Mortars at the site



Shown above is an illustration from Cambell Grant's (1965) book on Rock Art of the Chumash showing the main pictograph panel at Painted Rock as it originally appeared, before being vandalized many years ago by local ranchers. Below is shown an 1876 photo by Russell R.R. Holmes of the same undamaged panel. See our section on Lost or Damaged Sites for more information on the desecration of this national treasure.




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