Saturday, May 17, 2014

Native American Rock Art: Jawbone Canyon

A month ago I made it a goal to find the only pictograph site in all of Jawbone Canyon, surprising given Jawbone's location smack between the Tehachapi Range and the Coso complex. I'm sure there's probably a petroglyph site a la Coso style in there, maybe more. Some of Jawbone is off-limits. Nevertheless, here's paint on a rock and I'm glad to have found it. Took me two different missions and a lot of research to pin this one down.

The trick with these desert sites is to try to follow the water. Reliable water sources were well known to the natives. Knowledge of the locations of springs, seasonal creeks, tanks and tinajas, was critically valuable to these nomadic people. Many of these places, wether they were stop-overs or habitation sites, were marked in some way. That is the case with this site in Jawbone. I had some vague clues to follow--aluvial fan, near a wash, black granite cliff wall. No mention of a spring. Not a word said about shaded tanks of cool and clear spring water. The third frying pan of a canyon I'd been up that morning closed into a steep sided black granite gorge. And then I heard the birds. Chirping, chattering little birds. I spent enough time living in various deserts to know that you don't hear little birds unless there's water nearby. And, I thought with a little electric connect-the-goddamn-dots! charge, if there's water nearby then there's a pretty good chance I've found the art! I got my reward moments later.

On a vertical black granite wall 25 feet above the spring glowed a striking bull's eye of red and white concentric rings. Above that was a tall and slim figure of a man with a black head dress. Off to either side were ladders of red bars, more circles, and a faded monochrome red pictograph theorized by experts to represent an animal pelt. 

Now if only I could locate that petroglyph site in the Antelope Valley that's skunked me twice...


  1. That is awesome! Great work and great find...

  2. So True! Without the water it ain't happening.

    Thanks for the virtual look-in.

  3. That is certainly not the only pictograph in Jawbone. As you mentioned, "some of Jawbone is off-limits".

    Great find though!

  4. Ahhh, much trickiness. I just knew there had to be more. -DS

  5. This took me two times to find it. I would say yes, water is the key to 90% of rock art.
    Which petroglyph in the AV are you refering too?