Monday, February 17, 2014

Rock Island Shelter Pictographs and Milling Stone - Joshua Tree NP

I probably wasn't the first modern person to discover this place, but other than one obscure item on the internet, I've not heard a peep in about 40 years. Also, there are always zero footprints (other than mine) when I get there. I'm not surprised, because this is one of those places that people bypass to get somewhere else. Truthfully, there aren't even that many people who come anywhere close to it.  Even the people who know where things are and won't tell you, don't know about it. So, I claim this rock formation and all it contains, for ....ME!  I think I'll call it Rock Island.

Just one pretty rock formation in a sea of thousands of pretty rock formations.  

There's a large rock shelter up there.

There are no pictographs or petroglyphs in the first shelter. However, what is there is EVERY bit as exciting. See that large flat-ish rock in the middle of the photo? It's a milling stone! many people refer to them as a "slick." Probably because (as you can see) the top of the stone is smooth and somewhat concave from grinding seeds, acorns, etc into meal or flour. To the right of the stone you can see some round depressions in the floor. I think they were the start of mortars (morteros).

 Next to the first shelter is another.

It is actually bigger than the first one. Let's see what might be inside.

The view out the other end of the shelter. 

The rock art in this area is all old, but some of it is very old. Depending on how exposed they are, pictographs are sometimes almost impossible to see with the naked eye. As you can see in this photo.

 Here is a DStretch enhanced photo of the same spot.

 This one was almost impossible to see.

 Even when enhanced, I can only tell you that it's an abstract design.

This enhanced photo clearly shows at least one stylized rattlesnake. The large red figure to the right looks like a zoomorphic (animal) and anthropomorphic (human) combo. In this case a snake combined with a human. At least that's how it looks to me. However, I could just be having a flashback. I'll shut up now! Enjoy the rest of the post.

 Another example of the same photo.



  1. We were just in Joshua Tree yesterday! Drove through the park to check out the campgrounds as we may be doing a family outing there with the grandson next month!
    ~~Cheryl Ann~~

  2. There would once have been a handheld rock to go with the grinding stone you found Pat. When I was in the Sahara back in 1968, I found such a piece on the top of a mesa, but because I didn't at the time know what it was, I didn't look around for the other part.

    By the way, I believe that the technical term for such artifacts is "quern".

  3. Wow, Pat... what a fascinating place. Well done for finding it and for documenting it so well...I can just imagine early people living around there, going about their daily tasks and creating art.

  4. You could write a book on your travels and these fascinating pictures and do very well. I hope you do.

  5. What an amazing find..I would love to have a picnic lunch in that shelter with that glorious view..
    Great photos, Pat!!


  6. I bet you're the first one to see those shelters in a very long time. And you wouldn't even know there were drawings there from looking at the plain rock. Good eye, Pat!

  7. how very neat! that milling stone - touching it must have felt sacred.

  8. A fascinating place it is indeed and what terrific captures, Pat!! You do indeed have a great eye!! So much history and yet it would seem that it is mostly unknown!! Glad you found it and shared it with us! Have a great new week!

  9. trav4adventures - That sounds great Cheryl Ann. You should get some great weather at that time. If you don't require a lot of services. The campgrounds are great! Just remember to take all your water, food and firewood, because there isn't anything to be had once you are in the park.

    Dennis - Thanks Dennis. I'm well aware and pretty sure that most people here know about the handheld part of this method. I've also mentioned it in other posts.

    The term "quern" is rarely used in North America and never used in the western areas. It's a European term for the same type of implement. Out here, this type of stone is generally referred to as a Metate or grinding slick. The hand held stone, which unfortunately was not here is referred to as a mano.

    Nat - Thanks Nat! It really is fascinating.

    Shelly - That is very nice of you to say Shelly. Maybe one day, but I already have a couple of writing projects that I haven't touched for a couple of years. Much too much going on in my life right now.

    sixdegreeesphotography - Thanks Lynne! It would be nice to picnic there, but I'd do it outside the shelter. Whenever I go into one of these places, the word Hantavirus is always on my mind. This particular one wasn't too bad, but there was rodent feces in plain view and I wouldn't want to stir that stuff up and breath it.

    Alex - I hope I was the first one up there in a long time Alex. It's always a thrill to see zero vandalism and very few signs of modern humans around. You are very right about it sometimes being very hard to even see these images with the naked eye. In fact, I'm not that good at doing so. My wife is really good at it. I was by myself on this trip and was lucky to see some of them. It also isn't very smart doing this stuff without another person anyway (for safety reasons). This time it couldn't be helped as I was on a quest...

  10. I can't help but think that you were destined to come to this spot to tell its stories, and to connect with whoever had left these markers oh so long ago.

    It's a remarkable find. Then again, you've always had the ability to find the remarkable virtually anywhere you look. This is beyond cool, Pat.

  11. That is a very interest Rock Island Pat and great photos too!

  12. TexWisGirl - Places like this and the artifacts in them all feel very special to me. It's a huge part of our country's history. The milling stone still being there made it very special.

    Sylvia K - Thanks Sylvia! Very nice of you to say so. Finding these places is an amazing feeling.

    Carmi - Hey Carmi! Long time! There is more story to tell, but unfortunately, most of it is long forgotten. Thanks for the nice words, I really appreciate it.

    Brian - Thanks Brian! I love it there.

  13. You da Rock King!
    ROck n Roll Patty!

    Great to see your passion... and good shots as always.. smart bumping up the levels too.

    You should come to Australia and climb Uluru, or at least walk around it.. which can take a few hours. Plenty of Aboriginal rock art too.

  14. That is amazing - I would never have recognized what I was seeing.

  15. Beautiful skies and gorgeous stones!

  16. Pat, you're so gifted at finding natural treasures and showing them to us through photos and stories. The colors are gorgeous.


  17. amazing! you are the Pictograph King!!!! - how far off the road did you walk to get to this site?

  18. Speaking of "flashbacks" I often wonder if that's what the cave artists were having or perhaps just in the middle of using the things that cause flashbacks! Anyway, wonderful finds and I thank you for days of scrambling up unmarked trails re probably over.

    Digital photog is great the way these drawings can now be enhanced without harming the originals!

  19. I'm completely at sea with the significance of all that you've found (I don't know enough in many ways) but I've caught the awe and excitement. And how beautiful are the shapes of the rocks!

  20. I'm completely at sea with the significance of all that you've found (I don't know enough in many ways) but I've caught the awe and excitement. And how beautiful are the shapes of the rocks!

  21. Very interesting place. Thanks for showing. Greetings.

  22. What a find Pat! To sit there and hold something that was used for a specific purpose all that time ago must have felt a little surreal. The program that you're using to enhance the drawings works so well, to see something quite distinct from hardly anything at all is wonderful.

  23. Anthony - Thanks Anthony! I wish I was the king of this stuff. I know who is though. Not only would I like to visit Uluru, I'd like to see your entire country. I think I'd need about a year to do that.

    Al - It sure is! I've missed many things. That is just one more reason not to do this stuff alone.

    ladyfi - I agree! Combine them together and it makes for great scenery.

    Robyn - Thanks Robyn! I appreciate the nice words. I'm just getting started. I wish I could be out there full time.

    Pasadena Adjacent - It's maybe a mile off the road, there is a trail fairly close to it, but not to it. Like I said before, I wish I was the king, but I'm not even close. My granny was probably the queen. The king (in my eyes), is somebody I know and mentioned a couple posts back.

  24. Sallie (FullTime-Life) - A lot of the Rock Art out there was done by Shamans. I can tell you what they were using... Peyote, Datura (Jimson Weed), tobacco (not like ours) and other stuff we probably don't know about. My days of scrambling around those places should also be over. However, there is just too much too see.

    Esther Montgomery - I'm sorry you "at sea" about this stuff. That is probably my fault for not talking more about the people who lived in this area. I'll soon do a post about the history and people that were here.

    The symbols and artifacts in these places are hundreds and even thousands of years old. These particular types of symbols were created by Shamans while in a trance state. Some of what they drew had meaning, but most of it is lost knowledge. We do know that while they were hallucinating, they drew what the "saw." We really don't know much about it.

    Japy - My pleasure Japy!

    Cath H.C. Photographie - Merci beaucoup!

    PerthDailyPhoto - It does feel surreal, but it also ties you to the history of the place. Yes, DStretch really does help, but I'm certain it will do much more when I get better at it.

  25. I wouldn't mind having a rock shelter in my back yard :)

  26. You may have claimed it, but I assume I have visiting privileges?

  27. Pat, thank you so much for the info! Yes, I'll let you know if (WHEN) we return to Joshua Tree!
    Cheryl Ann (Deep Canyon)

  28. How utterly fascinating! I am vicariously enjoying the thrill of discovery. Seems your years of experience are paying off in the form of intuition, hunches, educated guesses. Call it what you will, you have the gift!!

  29. Wonderful photos, beautiful cave paintings, awesome!

  30. Amazing pictures, this place is very special. I'm impressed by the rock art, it's precious!
    *** we moved from Belgium to Luxembourg. Thanks for your always kind words and support. Luna was a little bit stressed during this move but now she is very adapted in our new home, eating normally, playing and enjoying long naps near the window. I will publish some pictures of her soon!
    Sending hugs to you and your adorable family!

  31. Great set of pictures.

    Excitement is building here about my trip into the desert!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  32. I love coming here to see your wonderful photos and I am always learning stuff.
    I agree that you would love coming to Aus and checking out some of our rock art in various places around the country. (not just Uluru)

  33. What a treat to see this since I bet you are correct that few modern humans have. You have excellent instincts to have checked these rocks out!

  34. DEZMOND - I agree with you! Of course you'd need a huge back yard.

    altadenahiker - Of course you do! There is a lot of there stuff there also.

    trav4adventures - My pleasure! I hope you have a great time.

    Stickup Artist - Thanks so much for the nice words. Those three things do help and so does the internet. It also helps to know the local expert (which I do). I guess I should give my long gone granny some credit also. She was a desert rat of the first order.

    Leovi - Thanks so much Leovi! There aren't the best ones, but still awesome.

  35. Cezar and Leia - Thanks so much Leia! I don't know how I missed that you were moving. I thought you were on another of your great trips. Hugs right back at you!

    Stewart M - Thanks Stewart! You will enjoy your trip. There is so many outdoorsy things to see around there. This is the right time of year also.

    Mynx - Thanks for saying that! I would need about a year to see all your great country has to offer. It might take that long to see your beautiful cities also.

    EG CameraGirl - It was a treat! The milling stone alone made the trip worthwhile. Thanks!

  36. Pat, these shots are awesome. It looks like you found some things for maybe the first time.

    Love the rock shelters and the "art"... very cool look.

    I guess you had another great trip to the desert!

    Take care....

  37. So flippin' cool. I would dearly love to know what those pictographs represent.

    I saw an interesting show on the history channel (I think) where a guy was tracing old pictographs that were in centuries old Hebrew text. I thought of these posts you were doing. It's the unknown history that's sometimes the most fascinating.

  38. Great post, Pat... How special to find such a neat place (where people haven't been much to destroy that history).

    The rock formations are fabulous--along with that dark blue sky. Getting to see the milling stone in that shelter had to have been exciting. And glad you got to see some of that ancient art... WOW!!!

    Thanks for taking us to that unknown place.

  39. What I find most compelling about these pictures is the sense that you're surrounded by ghosts long since dead (well, that's obvious since ghosts are, by definition, know what I mean). Do you get that feeling, as well?

  40. First Pat, I love the sky so blue, and this is so interesting, I love the rock art. Your photos are really beautiful.

  41. Seriously the things you find are incredible. I'm so glad you share your adventures.

  42. love the rock formations, stones and rock painting.


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