Monday, September 16, 2013

Chumash Painted Cave Pictographs

In addition to ghost towns, hiking, exploring back roads, mountains, Route 66 and all things desert related, We also LOVE American Indian history, ruins and rock art. So today, we'll take a little break from the desert posts.

Chumash Painted Cave is probably the smallest state park in California. It's in the coastal mountains above the beautiful city of Santa Barbara.

The road up here isn't very wide and there really isn't room for two cars side by side.

Just off the road and up about 20 steps is the cave. The Chumash tribe and the state locked the cave up decades ago to preserve the pictographs. I thought it was going to be hard to take photos because the grid of the ironwork looked fairly small.

This is why they keep people away from it. I was so happily surprised that the images were still so vibrant. There is also some very old scratched in names and dates in the cave. Early graffiti...

Although the experts have no idea exactly what these symbols and images represent, they believe that they were created by Shaman or priests when they came to the cave searching for power or spiritual strength as they tried to influence supernatural beings and forces to intervene in human affairs.

The creators of these images used charcoal, red ochre and powdered sea shells. As the early tribes lost their way of lives, the meanings of many of their symbols was also lost.  The Chumash people have been in this area for thousands of years. The exact time these images were made is not known, but at a minimum they are many hundreds of years old.

All of the images were amazing, but I was really drawn to the somewhat scary looking image in the upper right hand corner of the photos.

I took this photo because I thought these odd shapes were pretty interesting. I'm sure some of them were formed by nature, I wonder if they were originally "cupules." The link will take you to a good example of "cupule" rock art.  Cupules are believed to be one of the most ancient forms of rock art.

Look at the left hand side of the photo. There is a pictograph OUTSIDE of the cave. I didn't notice it at all. I wonder if it is original. We'll be there fairly soon and I'll try to find out exactly what it is.

More Importantly:

The lovely and talented Alex J. Cavanaugh has just released his latest Science Fiction thriller...

A Storm gathers across the galaxy...

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he'd put the days of battle behind him.  As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron's ideal life is threatened and he's caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family.  the declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy's mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return.  As his world beings to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle...
CassaStorm by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science Fiction - Space Opera/Adventure
Print ISBN 9781939844002
E-book ISBN 9781939844019
You can find CassaStorm and the other books in this series at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Amazon Kindle and Goodreads.
Also available:



  1. Hi there - nice pictures - I managed a few images of rock art in central Australia - but I have not posted them yet! I need to save a few surprises for the wordy blog!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  2. The scary looking dude resembles Slash from Guns-n-Roses :-0

    This is a cool find, it really makes you wonder what they were trying to communicate - it's sad that was lost.

  3. Powdered sea shells - wonder where they got those from?

  4. What a remarkable place! I feel as if history is reaching out of the past to speak to us today. You have the gift of finding the most amazing sites, then telling the stories of these places so ably.

  5. wow! fabulous! so glad they are saving them from further destruction!

  6. A remarkable place indeed, Pat, and terrific captures as always! And as always you start my week with a fascinating trip/history!! Thank you!! Have a wonderful week!

  7. What a neat cave, Pat. I love the shapes and rock art --along with the petroglyphs... That would be a neat state park to visit. Glad that area is being preserved... Such history!

  8. I am so glad you take these journeys. These photos are such beautiful images of ancient art. Reminds me of Werner Herzog's documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams." It must be our human impulse to reach out and communicate. Like blogging... our etchings are on the impermanent screens of programmed ones and zeroes.

  9. That's beautiful and fascinating - another gem in CA I've never seen or heard of before. Thanks, Pat.

    Take care, friend.

  10. These are amazing, Pat! I swear one of those cross-like images almost looks like an iron cross. I love the one that you think might be cupules and the road to get there!

  11. Those are amazing Pat and we are sure glad you took us along!

  12. Love these pictures Pat but love the history even more. It's really amazing that they've stayed so bright all of these centuries. Great post!

  13. Pat is this place hard to find? Maybe my brother and I can drive up there sometime. Can you send me directions?

  14. I'm always amazed at how talented they were. Such beautiful pictures!!

  15. For most of the years I taught, we read a novel called Island of the Blue Dolphins, about a girl from the Chumash tribe. This was fascinating to me!

  16. What unusually vibrant pictograms in the cave.

  17. Oh man.

    I am going.

    Maybe today.

    Maybe when my husband gets home from the dentist today.

    Oh sure.

    He'll say he has to work.

    Oh sure.

    He'll say don't you have painting to do?

    And I'll say.



  18. Please disregard the slightly overexcited tone of my last comment.


  19. Yes, that beautiful, beautiful photos, beautiful place, exquisite colors and abstract shapes in the cave!

  20. Pinturas originais, bonitas!
    Boa Noite!
    Ótima quarta-feira!
    º° ✿✿ ♫° ·.

  21. Stewart - Hey Stewart! Can't wait to see them. You have some of the world's oldest rock art down there.

    Wayne - That is funny! At first glance, I thought the same thing. Supposedly, the Chumash have other sites in the area that equal or surpass this, but they won't allow ANY visitors. There is one positive byproduct of our wild fires out here. After the fires, there are ALWAYS a ton of ancient artifacts and rock art discovered.

    Alex - This cave is only about 10 miles (as the crow flies) to the ocean. Way back in the day, most of this part of the country was under the ocean. I announced your new book on FB today. I'm also going to add something about it to this post (I forgot!)

    Carmi - It is remarkable! thanks for the nice words Carmi.

    TexWisGirl - I agree! People just can't resist screwing old things up.

    Sylvia K - Thanks so much Sylvia! I have to admit, I love history. Especially so if I can see it.

    Betsy - It's pretty small! Easy to get to if you don't have too big a vehicle.

  22. Robin - Thanks Robin, I'm also glad! "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" is a mind blowing documentary. Those aren't just symbols, that stuff is actually art! And it was what, 20,000 or 30,000 years old? AMAZING!

    Robyn - My pleasure Robyn! It's one of the little jewels that even the people in the area haven't seen.

    Ms. A - Yes they are! I should have included another little item on the road. It's a humongous slab of granite leaning out over the road.

    Brian - Thanks Brian! I'm happy to do so.

    Bouncin Barb - Thanks so much Barb! I think they've stayed so bright because the sun never even comes close to them.

    Kay - It isn't hard at all! I would be happy to send them to you.

    Baby Sister - It blows my mind that there were people there so long ago. No roads, no stores, no nothing. Yet, they had everything they needed.

  23. Shelly - I read that book. I think I even saw a movie based on it.

    ladyfi - There were very vibrant. There are also other spots in the area that people keep secret. My whole state is full of ancient Indian artifacts.

    Jenny - You should! Maybe it would be best to wait until his day off! You are so funny!

    Mama Zen - I totally agree with you.

    Leovi - Thanks so much Leovi! I wish I could just sit in that cave and soak it all in.

    Magia - Hello! Thank you very much! Hope you are well...

  24. I'm glad you were able to get such good photos in spite of the ironwork. There's so much history there and it would be a tragedy if it were destroyed.

  25. They do remind me a little of the Aboriginal cave paintings, not so much the content although the Aboriginals were very much into the magic of the 'dreamtime'.. Wonder if your scary 'thing' up there is supposed to be a Shaman? Well done Pa you got excellent shots in tricky circumstances..
    P.s. hope I don't start losing my faculties now that I'm about to become a grandma :)))

  26. Did not know about this State Park ... we loved RVing near Santa Barbara and have talked about going back ever since (and it's been a long time since we were there) I have another reason to want to go. We love Native American history and finding pictographs and petroglyphs too. These ones are really different from those we've seen.

    Also I didn't know about cupules.

    Will be eager to read your followup post on this place!

    Safe travels! Enjoy the coast too!

  27. These are beautiful!!! And you did a great job getting the pics!!! The pictographs by us are all out in the open and have been affected by weather...and unfortunately people...some pictographs were actually chiseled off and taken...people can be soooo I am so glad to see that this has been protected, and yet is still accessible. The vibrancy of the colors is amazing!!!

    re: Island of the Blue librarian grandmother gave this to me when I was just a wee of my all time childhood favorite books!!!

  28. So glad to see that they've preserved the site. Yes, that image is scary!
    Reminds me a bit of Aboriginal paintings, with the red ochre. Ours are more simple I suppose, but date back tens of thousands of years.

    Thanks for sharing Pat!

  29. I would love to see these cave paintings. I was absolutely fascinated by the beautiful rock paintings in some of the Australian outback areas that we have visited.
    It leaves you with a sense of awe I think

  30. Fascinating, especailly since I just returned from the Lascaux cave region of France and witnessed many caves with cro-magnon drawings.

    Very well photographed, too.

  31. These are the most elaborate drawings I've seen in caves. Would love to know more about the history. Maybe google it, eh!

    About my post, yeah I can see you hold up a whole (guided) tour group! I didn't expect anything else than you and your sweetie hiking up to the top, having looked at your Ghost Town travels!I know you'll chuckle at my next post:)

  32. I've driven past Santa Barbara and never knew this was here. I may have to stop next time, it looks fascinating.

  33. when I enlarge the photos, I am amazed at the vibrant colours and details in these ancient pictographs. Wow!

  34. Beautiful. Why leave the country when there's so much here?

  35. Looks like my comment didn't go through - one of the most elaborate cave carvings (except for the Egyptian ones). Like to know more about their history.

    Expected nothing less than that you would have walked up that anthill (Corniglia-Cinque Terre), since you wandered through the desert with your sweetie:)

  36. EG CameraGirl - Thanks! I was surprised that they came out as well as they did. I'd really like to see the stuff the tribe keeps under wraps.

    PerthDailyPhoto - I'm thinking it probably is a Shaman. I need to get some literature on the rock art of the California tribes. It is amazing how much Rock Art and relics there are. Nobody talks about where most of it is though.
    I hope you don't lose them either.

    Sallie (FTL) - It's just a tiny place. There is so much stuff to see in that area. Do you guys belong to RPI, Thousand Trails, or one of the others? We are enjoying our stay here. I found one totally crazy thing that apparently most of the locals don't even know about. What we are enjoying most, is the cool and foggy weather. If you do get back down to the Santa Barbara area, let me know and I'll give you some tips about some great back road stuff to see.

    TheChieftess - Thanks Kathryn! Many of them down here are suffering the same fate. The thing I don't understand is the vandalism. What the heck is wrong with some people? They think the island is one of the coastal islands off the coast. San Nicholas Island I believe. Anyway, the Chumash believe they came from the sea. I've been reading a lot about them. Very interesting stuff.
    I read the book and also saw the movie!

    Anthony - Me too Anthony! I loved Wayne's comment that it looked like Slash, from Guns 'N Roses. Yes, you guys have some really old things there. Lot's of history.

    Nynx - I totally agree with you! I imagine the people back then and how they lived. They seemed to do just fine without us.

  37. The Geezers - Wow! I would love to go there. I understand that there is so much ancient Rock Art there. If it's Cro-Magnon, it is amazingly ancient.

    Jesh - There is a ton of info on Rock Art on the internet. One thing is clear, nobody really knows what most symbols mean. Oh yeah, if I see something worth looking at, I'm looking! Can't wait for your next post. I'm keeping your blog open, so I don't miss it.

    Al - It's only about 7 miles from Hwy 101 (that you were on). I have other things for you to look at in that area, so I hope you come back soon.

    Rosemary - They are amazing, right?

    Al P - Isn't that the truth? there is enough to see in many states to take a lifetime.

    Jesh - Sorry about that! I'm studying up on that subject at this very moment. You are right, I would have gone up that hill. My wife and I recently hiked about 4,500 feet up a mountain just to see a 100 year old plane crash site.

  38. You find the most amazing places! This just reminds me to look a little harder because I've been to Santa Barbara several times and never stopped here.

    Great post!

  39. Hey Pat! Thanks for pointing this out - I would've totally missed my book covers. Hope you enjoy the third one. You rock!

  40. Mynx (sorry about that)- I totally agree with you! I imagine the people back then and how they lived. They seemed to do just fine without us.

    James - If you've taken the San Marcos pass over to the Lake Cachuma or Solvang area, you drove right by the road.

    Alex - My pleasure! I'll be home next week and hope to start then.

  41. Happy to see the pictographs so well preserved! The "cupules" remind me of "honeycomb rock" we recently saw at Pine Hills Nature Preserve (west central Indiana) but on a much smaller scale.


  42. Yet another awesome place and pics. Thanks Pat.

  43. thirtysevenandcounting - Me too! I'm pretty sure it was an erosion process, but who knows!

    Pam - My pleasure Pam! Thanks to you!

  44. I love the mountains above Santa Barbara. Is this on the San Marcos Hwy? I attended a yoga retreat up there 20 years ago. It was magical.

  45. I love the mountains above Santa Barbara. Is this on the San Marcos Hwy? I attended a yoga retreat up there 20 years ago. It was magical.

  46. California Girl - Me too! There are so many great trails and old roads in those mountains. Yep, the road going into those mountains is the 154. The part going over the mountains into the Santa Ynez Valley is the San Marcos Pass.

  47. that is A-MAZING!!! wow!
    awesome photos, too.
    i always love visiting you because i know i am going to find something beautiful and interesting!

  48. people often say they learn something new from my blog but I must say - you are teaching me new things. I'm thinking I need to spend a little time up north and catch these sights myself


  49. Betty M - Thanks Betty! Finding these places is what we like to do.

    Pasadena Adjacent - Why Thank You! The central coast is one of my favorite area. So much to see and do.

  50. Wow. That is so so cool! I am fascinated by that stuff. Really neat that you got to see that!


This blog is word verification free.
I love your comments and will do my best to respond to each and every one.