Monday, July 7, 2014

Alister's Cave Rock Art - Joshua Tree National Park

First off, Alister's Cave isn't actually a cave, it's an alcove, under an overhang, on the side of a cliff. It's probably one of the more well known "secret" rock art sites in the park. Having said that, the number of people who have either seen it, or heard about it, is minuscule. Most of the people who do know about it, are rock climbers and they pretty much ignore it. I'm happy to report, that there appears to be zero vandalism done to the site over the many decades that I've known about it. The main problem with the site is the degradation of the pictographs due to weathering and the natural decomposition of the granite surface. There are also a few faint petroglyphs on a portion of the floor. 

please embiggen this one
This photo and the next, may or may not be in the same area as Alister's Cave. 

Nothing to do with rock art, but it is in the area and is a beautiful example of a California Barrel Cactus

An alcove under an overhang on the side of a cliff. It's pretty tough sledding through all the boulders and vegetation snarls to get to a climbable spot. This isn't that spot...

As you can see, the pictographs are very faint. That is very unfortunate because there are a ton of them here in many layers. 

An enhanced (via DStretch) version of the photo above. Still not too good.

Another example of how faded most of the pictos are

Enhanced version of the previous photo

As viewed by me


As viewed

Enhanced by DStretch. I recognize a few of them. There is a Yoni or atlatl in the upper right hand corner. There also appears to be a flying saucer in the middle of the photo. Nah!

A closer photo of the flying saucer looking symbol

Some visible black pictographs 

Enhanced version. At the top center, there appears to be a anthropomorphic symbol. The symbols that look like brooms are likely representing rain. 

This panel is pretty much invisible to the naked eye

Thanks to DStretch, we can at least see what is left of the pictos in that spot

Once again, very hard to see. It does look like there are some very faded reddish, white and black symbols.

This enhanced version of the previous photo, reflects exactly why DStretch is so amazing...  The large white image to the upper left is clearly anthropomorphic (human, or human like). The red symbol in the center might be an atlatl (spear or arrow thrower). The appearance of an atlatl indicates that at least some of these symbols are VERY old, because the atlatl was used to "throw" arrows, darts and spears before the appearance of the "bow" in this part of the country.

In the next two photos, you will be able to see, that there are old pictographs drawn over older pictographs. 

Enhancement #1 is concentrated on the dark pigments

Enhancement #2 is concentrated on the red pigments. Old on top of old, on top of older.



  1. Most of those you can't even see without enhancement.

  2. I like the enhanced version of them, and also like the look of the barrel cactus!

    Beautiful nature..

  3. OMG is that an alien spaceship shooting into the sky in the second pic? :)

  4. One or two look like Chinese characters, but I'm sure they're not.

  5. thank goodness you can enhance them. amazing BUNCH of them, there!

  6. Wish I'd read this before I spent time there. I missed a lot it seems.
    Great pictures.

  7. Oh, yes! Thank you for enhancing them and they are amazing! You find the most fascinating places and sights, Pat! I always enjoy your posts so much. Thanks for sharing!!
    Have a great week!

  8. Love the cactus! I have never seen such a beautiful cactus. It's blooming so beautifully!

    Rocks are fascinating! It's impossible not to love them, it's impossible not to remember them!

    Pat this is a very sunny post with fantastic photos!

  9. Hey it could be a UFO! Fun photos Pat!

  10. HI, Hope you had a wonderful weekend. We certainly did! We did have one crazy thing to happen... We have NEVER had to put up our Hummingbird Feeders at nights. BUT--this morning we saw the one in our front yard on the ground! Wooo--wonder what got into that one?????? Our fun with critters never ends! ha

    Alister's Cave looks like an interesting place. I love the way you 'enhance' the petroglyphs and the pictographs... that helps so much!! Thanks.


  11. stole another one of your pictures to use as a background (the one with the rain brooms) ^_^

  12. The enhancements really do show the spectacular art there. Wonderfully done.

  13. These are absolutely beautiful, fascinating photos Pat... that first one is quite mesmerising!

  14. Fantastic photos as always. I do not think I have ever been to the Joshua Tree National Forest.

  15. There's an amazing difference with enhanced. It's a beautiful area.

    I first heard of Joshua Tree as a child- but it was when U2 released the album. Only later did I learn it was a place and a park. I'd love to see it someday.

  16. Alex - Yep! Someday they will be totally gone. Then nobody will see them. That sucks.

    Icy BC - I agree! They would be much less interesting without the ability to enhance them.

    DEZMOND - It sure looks like a spaceship!

    Dennis Hodgson - I agree with you Dennis. There are some symbols that seem to almost be global.

    TexWisGirl - Yep! Thank goodness for that. I wish they all would show up more. It's too bad they are so faded.

    Should Fish More - I wish you had also. I'm just scratching the surface. There is so much more there.

  17. Liz - Thanks Liz! I think it is also.

    Sylvia - It is my pleasure Sylvia! Thanks for the nice words.

    Kaya - I love it too! I agree, it is a very impressive place. I love it there.

    Brian - Thanks Brian! It could be an UFO...

    Betsy - I sure did have a nice weekend and I hope that you did as well. Where there are squirrels, it seems that nothing is out of reach.

    Lovkyne - No problem! I'm glad you liked it.

  18. Robin Andrea - Thanks Robin! This group wouldn't look nearly as good with the software.

    Nat - Thanks Nat! It's a beautiful and fascinating place.

    Kay - Thanks Kay! Maybe someday you will go there.

    William Kendall - I love it there.
    My experience there was much different, as we spent much of our time there when I was kid.

  19. Thanks for showing me wonders that I will probably never see in person. Even if I were there, I probably would not notice the faint markings.

  20. The space ship resembles the rings of Saturn, which would be quite a feat for them to see unaided!

  21. So beautiful!! I love that you care about this stuff, our history is so important!! Thanks for sharing your journeys, Pat. :)

  22. It''s a good thing someone is taking photos of these petroglyphs since someday they will be gone. Enhancing them sure helps!

  23. Everything is gorgeous and interesting, but now I'm absolutely fixated on purchasing a red barrel cactus for my yard.

  24. #1Nana - It is my pleasure! I think you can develop a knack for spotting them. My wife is much better that I am.

    Wayne - That would be quite a feat. I wish I could find out exactly what that symbol means.

    Baby Sister - You are welcome and thank you also!

    EG CameraGirl - Yes, and that will be a sad day... I agree about the enhancement.

    Stickup Artist - I don't blame you! They are gorgeous.

  25. This is so remarkable. Is there an anthropology department somewhere at some Uni. that is studying these places ... should there be? Should you work for them? It just boggles my mind that these ancient writings are out there with nobody paying any attention (not that I want tourists to go there, but shouldn't somebody be documenting this for history books or something? )

  26. What a wonderful series of photos. I love the pictographs. The barrel cactus is pretty. Thanks for sharing, have a happy day!

  27. Exquisite pictures, I love those beautiful landscapes, wonderful!

  28. Oh, you sent us a secret rock garden. Thank you! I'll visit -- actually, not just virtually.

  29. Gorgeous landscape photos. I've always loved desert photographs. I love the stark juxtaposition of them.

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. Sallie (FullTime-Life) - Most of the known sites have been studied, surveyed, recorded and then kept secret from the public. Not much is being done these days. Unless, somebody finds something new. Most people think that only a fraction of them have even been discovered yet. For a long long time, most archaeologists paid very little attention to the rock art component. The groups that examine and excavate these sites, wouldn't have anything to do with me, or people like me. They want it all to remain secret because they think it will all be vandalized if anybody knows about them. I first saw this site about 50 years ago. Other than some fading, it looks the same now, as it did then

    elieeninmd - Thanks so much Eileen. I agree about the cactus, one would fit at my place also.

    Leovi - thanks Leovi! I also love them.

    altadenahiker - Joshua Tree is an amazing place and I hope you get to visit it soon.

    msmariah - Thanks so much! It really is a stark place, but so alive and beautiful.

  32. BEautiful blue skies and remarkable that so much colour is left in those caves.

  33. Very typical of the ancients to create art over the top of previous art. Aboriginals here did the same thing.

    Great shots Pat - especially the first two. I'm very glad I embiggened!

  34. Totally fascinating Pat.. what a fantastic tool the DStretch is.. are this set of pictos facing the direct elements or a little protected ? Hey I wouldn't totally pooh pooh the idea of ancient images indicating space ships, especially in this remote area, they say they've been visiting for ever.. you never know :)

  35. Thanks for the answer Pat ... those snobby university types are missing a bet not taking advantage of your expertise.

  36. Like I've said all along, you need to be a guide for Nat Geo.. No doubt, you would be the best teacher! Another great field trip!!

  37. Very nice - that certainly is a beautiful area. I never would have imagined there were so many pictographs!

  38. We're back to roadtrips!

    Isn't it too hot there?

    It's so neat, but the desert is so nasty right now!

  39. ladyfi - They sure are! I hope the colors last much longer.

    Anthony J. Langford - Thanks so much Anthony! I'm very glad you enjoyed them.

    PerthDailyPhoto - Yep, DStretch is fantastic. In this spot, they are fairly well protected. They are open to the heat and cold though. I don't pooh pooh anything Grace. I feel something when I'm in these places. If it's aliens or ancients, I have no idea, but I feel something. Maybe it's just the history of it all.

    Sallie (Full Time-Life) - My pleasure Sallie. Thanks so much for saying that.

  40. sixdegreesphotography - Thanks Lynne! that is very nice of you to say. compared to most folks, I know quite a bit about these places. I wish I knew half as much as my granny did.

    Laura Delegal - You are right about that, but a few scattered clouds sure look nice in photographs.

    Al - You are right Al, it is a gorgeous there.

    Jenny - Yeah! I'm so happy for you. When we did this visit, it was cooler. The post before that, it was Hot. My wife isn't as tolerant of the heat as I am, so we mostly go during the cooler months. But in about 10 days we are going anyway. If my wife can't hang, that's okay, because we are taking a couple of our grand kids with us. My 11 year old grand daughter loves this stuff also and she flies through these big rock formations like a crazed monkey.


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