Monday, March 10, 2014

Diamond Solstice Pictograph Site - Joshua Tree National Park

Here is another of my favorite, and fairly unknown pictograph sites in Joshua Tree National Park. It is a favorite because of how awesome it is, and also because of how much work we put into getting to it (most of it needlessly).

As demonstrated by my wife's warmest winter gear, it was below freezing on day one. We had two options to get to our objective. Go through this overgrown and boulder filled canyon, or hike around it.  We decided to finesse and/or bully our way through it. Unfortunately, the canyon was having no part of that.

After a long and protracted battle that had us crawling under and climbing over countless boulders like these, we decided to call it a day. We would return the next day and take the long way in. If you compare my wife's cute little face with the things around her, you can see why we stopped. It was very late in the day and we were unprepared to spend the night in the park. There was also the matter of our diabetic travel buddy (Newman the cat), who would be needing his insulin injection that evening. He's a smart cat, but he hasn't figured out how to do it on his own yet.

Bright and early on day two, I came back by myself. 

I left out a lot of the scenery between this spot and where we'd been the day before (I said it's a secret place, right?) Right here I'm looking back down what I had just climbed. Kids, don't try this at home...

This is the overhang that was our objective. If you squint your eyes, you might see something cool in the the middle of the photo. See it?

Here's a little closer look. See it now? 

The overhang had kept these pictographs out of the sun and rain for a long time. I had seen them many decades earlier, but they didn't have the same impact on me then as they did now. I sat under the overhang for quite a while. I ate my lunch and took in the feel of the place. I felt the presence of the ancients who had been there before me, but what I mostly felt was my grandmother. She was the person who first took me here decades earlier. I know I've been promising and I will get a post together about her.

This part of the pictographs really doesn't need much enhancing, but I did it anyway.

This is the summer solstice marker. More on it at the end of the post.

This one is very hard to see.

It looks like a row of tic-marks. I'm not sure of the meaning.

This one needs some enhancing.

I've said many times that we really don't know the meaning of most symbols. This is NOT one of those symbols. When I explain the title, I'll tell you.

The view looking back towards the way I came into this alcove.

Same view, but enhanced, so you can see most of the pictographs in this photo.
I haven't seen or heard very much about this location either on the Internet or in books. However, every time I have, it was referred to as the "Diamond Solstice Cave" or "Diamond Solstice Site." I'm no expert, If you remember, I've said that most of the symbols drawn or scratched in the places I've shown you, were either done by a Shaman, or initiates. These diamond symbols were likely painted by initiates, more precisely, "puberty initiates."  I've read things about these red diamond symbols in a couple of places. The following quote is from one of them.

"The final event of the Luiseno Indian puberty celebration consisted of a race, called a "hayie," to a certain rock where a relative of each girl awaited her with a little pot of red ochre paint. On arrival each initiate painted a design on the rock.  Indian informants indicated  that these designs were always diamond-shaped and represented the rattlesnake."  (Dolcie H. Vuncannon)

As with most rock art, there is little in the way of actual proof relating to any of it.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot. In the 14th and 15th photos there is a known symbol that I said I'd explain to those of you who don't know it already. That symbol is called a "Yoni" and has been a part of American Indian rock art for thousands of years. A "yoni" is a female hoo-hoo. The symbol is not really a sexual reference, but one of fertility. 

So is this solstice site, or is it a fertility related site? I may be wrong, but when you combine the red diamonds with the "yoni" in the same small place. I think the answer is pretty clear. Well, as clear as something like this can be anyway. I guess it's both!

During the summer solstice "A finger like pointer of sunlight enters the site to interact with the half circle pictograph with the 14 tally marks sticking up from it." 
If you look at the 9th photo from the end of this post, you will see the half circle that looks like the sun and sun rays. I stand corrected...

If you actually hung around and read all this, I commend you and I thank you...



  1. We found some very interesting pictographs while in had the same meaning as yours in the 14th and 15th photos. Yes...the female "hoo-hoo"...Of course, I took gobs of photos, not knowing until later what they represented!
    Cheryl Ann ~only 2 weeks until SPRING BREAK!!!

  2. I have truly learned some things today! Wow- great pics as always, too~

  3. almost haven't seen the female head behind those branches and rocks :)

  4. very interesting. although i personally wouldn't want my fertility or puberty being publicly acknowledged, celebrated or advertised, i can appreciate the traditions within it.

  5. Well, if it was young Indians doing the designs, I can see why yoni ended up on the rock!
    What's the age do you imagine?

  6. Great post and photos as always, Pat, and while I tend to feel the same way as Tex, I, too, appreciate the traditions! Fascinating place! Thanks as always for sharing the fun and the history with us!!

  7. I have the attention span of a gnat, but was completely captivated by the story, this is fascinating.

  8. One of those symbols doesn't exactly make me think "female".

    Can't help wondering how long it would take a rescue squad to get to you and get you out of there, if you had a problem?

  9. That must have been an early version of a rock concert of sorts!

  10. trav4adventures - Yep! They are all over the place. There are also many rocks/boulders around where they "enhanced" a crack in the surface to look like that. It's not really a "sexual" reference, but one of fertility.

    Shelly - Thanks so much Shelly! There is lots to learn and not much is known by anybody.

    DEZMOND - The tangle of huge rocks, trees and brush made us feel very small.

    TexWisGirl - I sure do understand that! I think it related just as much to the game they hunted and the food that grew, as it did to the people themselves.

  11. Alex - Well, the onset of puberty is much earlier now than it was back then. I've read that it was about 13. In some tribes there were other ceremonies that took place at that time also.

    Sylvia K - Thanks so much Sylvia! I'm very glad that you enjoy this stuff.

    Wayne - Thanks Wayne! I also have the attention span of a gnat. I'm glad you liked it.

    Ms. A - I know what you mean!
    If something happened to me, I might still be there! I wouldn't advise most people to ever do these things by themselves. I had very warm layered clothing and the things I would need to last a while if something happened. Plus, I'm very careful when out there by myself and my wife knows the area where I would be. If I didn't show up, she could inform the authorities where I could likely be found.

  12. I did read it all. It's really touching that your grandmother showed these sites to you first and now you are taking your granddaughter. (I don't know if she was with you at this particular site, but at least she was with you in JT Park recently.)

    And yeah, I think it was a fertility site, but anybody's guess is as good as anybody else's.

  13. you kept us at the edge of our seats. great job. :)

  14. What an amazing site. That was quite the hike up to it!

  15. A great post and a great find. I read it all and if I get pregnant now, I am going to blame you.

  16. FASCINATING! Read and thoroughly every word.

  17. What a great place - and a nice set of shots.

  18. Brian - I sure it was! Without the music and mosh-pit though...

    Sallie FTL - Thank you so much for reading! On the second day of this trip, I went there alone. I'm thinking fertility also.

    Lovkyne - Thank you so much and thanks right back at you.

    Al - It sure was Al. It wasn't as bad as it looked. I'm like an old mountain goat.

    Bossy Betty - Thanks so much my friend, but don't be blaming me!

    Stickup Artist - Thank you so much! I appreciate it!

    ladyfi - Thanks! It really is an amazing place

  19. You know, when I quickly scrolled and looked at the pictures before I read, I was going to make a wiseguy comment about the 14th and 15th pictures. Because, to me, it looked just like a....
    Yep. That's EXACTLY what it looked like.
    Glad I read, because my smart aleck comment would have been lame indeed.

  20. Patrick, your dedication to first finding then documenting and then educating us about these illusive sites is heartening. Thank you for all the hard work. I am looking forward to the post about Granny. I'd love to meet her!

  21. Beautiful photos, I love these pictograms, great place!

  22. Are you kidding Pat, I always read what you write. These markings are absolutely fascinating and I tend to agree with you, they do appear to be connected more to fertility rites than solstice. How wonderful that you spent some time with your Grandmother even if it was in spirit, such a blessing! That was quite a trek, you really are a very keen explorer aren't you. Hope le pussy cat is doing ok :)

  23. I would go to this place again and again. The pictures with pictograms on the rocks are simply breathtaking.

    The more I look at your pictures of rocks the more I like them. They are silent and beautiful!

    Excellent photography, Pat!

  24. Al P - That's funny Al! I was thinking about not explaining it at all, but it fit into the fertility slant on the place.

    Rosemary - Thanks Rosemary! It's my pleasure. I also owe thanks to those few folks who visited it before me. I'll get on that granny post soon.

    Leovi - Thank you Leovi! It is a great place.

    PerthDailyPhoto - That is so nice to hear. I really do appreciate it. I have to admit that I've slowed down a lot on the exploring and haven't slept on the ground in quite a while. The cat is doing great!

    Kaya - That is what I do Kaya. I never get tired of the desert. Your state has some of the most amazing rock art in the world. Thanks so much!

  25. I hung around, read it all and learned something new today Teacher Pat..:-)

    Was that Rabbit ears I saw in the earlier photo you asked us to squint at?

  26. Fascinating place. Looks amazing. You must be pretty fit Pat!

    I dont know what's funnier, Yoni or Hoo-Hoo. haha

    A great series and yes I got through to the end. I like the information you give. Do they have any idea how old the art is? Or as you say, conjecture...

  27. sixdegreesphotography - I am no teacher madame! I just wanted to see if I could make you squint!

    Anthony - It is a fascinating place Anthony! I'm in better shape than I have any right to be, but not as good as I want to be. Thanks for sticking with it.

  28. I love the textures of the rocks. Great job. Greetings.

  29. There are some archeological sights around here I'd love to visit. A 10,000 year old pair of shoes was found near here.

  30. Wow!! Some of those are really preserved!! That's awesome!! :)

  31. Nice post - No need to worry about the amount of words - some of us are far more verbose!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS: my latest post is from Sedona.

  32. You discover the most amazing places!

  33. Hi There, We are home from George's fabulous birthday trip. I will blog about it tomorrow. It was truly a trip we will be talking about for a VERY long time!!!!

    Very interesting post, Pat... I loved reading your thoughts about the ancient people who had been there, what they were thinking and how they used 'pictures' to depict their thoughts/actions. Glad you didn't get lost there --since not many people could ever have found you!!!! BUT--how exciting for you to be there.


  34. Japy - Hi Japy! Thanks!

    M Pax - You are so right! There is a ton of them in your state. I one were to listen to my wife, they might think those old shoes were a pair of my sneakers (that I still wear).

    Baby Sister - Yep! It's all about exposure to the elements (or lack of).

    Stewart - Thanks Stewart! I appreciate all of that. I'll be over to check out your Sedona post.

    James - Thanks James! I wish I was the one who actually did discover them.

    Betsy Adams - Thanks Betsy! I really do with they knew more facts about these things. I don't worry about getting lost anywhere, but getting hurt is another issue. I'll be over to check out your trip.

  35. pat, thank you so much for this most wonderful and informative post!
    you never fail to amaze always discover the most interesting places my friend.
    great photos as usual, too.

    happy weekend~

  36. Betty - It was my pleasure! Thanks so much for the nice words Betty...

  37. I agree with Betty! You always bring so many new and interesting places for us. Your photos, too, are amazing, especially those pictographs; they are fascinating to see.

  38. Very cool pics and I enjoyed reading about this place - If it was a puberty initiation rite then in a way it was sexual - in the sense that one has to have sex to have babies and babies = fertility. Oh, and I did guess what it was though I wasn't sure if I was right. I'm wicked smaht that way :)

  39. Icy BC - Thanks so much! I really appreciate all your nice words.

    mshatch - Thanks! You are clearly wicked smaht!

  40. Hi Pat
    Loved the photos. My brother is a geologist. When I was young I thought his interest in rocks was dumb, but now I admire both the rocks and my brother. I read the whole thing as I always do.

  41. N.R. Williams - Thanks Nancy! There is a road in this place called "The Geology Tour Road." I think it's 18 miles and goes through several different geologic zones. I wish I knew more about these rocks.

  42. Maybe a bit of both? :-)

  43. visualnorway - Yes, it seems that it is some of both.
    Either way, a very cool, and interesting place.


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