Did you know that humans have been living in California for an estimated 8,000-12,000 years?

Digital Special Collections is pleased to announce the addition of a new topic to California Cultures, featuring Native American Rock art in California. The topic includes almost thirty photos of rock art sites from throughout central and southern California, as well as links to hundreds more in the collection. The Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Palm Springs contributed the images and collaborated on writing the topic essay.

Rock art refers to paintings and carvings made by aboriginal people on the natural landscape. The art depicted in this topic ranges from simple scratches to elaborate motifs to giant drawings on the ground best seen from above. Some of the artworks clearly depict human and animal forms, while others include abstract elements—the meanings of which scholars are still trying to decipher. Their exact dates are unknown, but they are part of a long tradition in human history. Some rock art has been known to have lasted thousands of years.

pictograph

Paints made from natural mineral pigments such as iron oxide were mixed with binding agents such as animal fats and egg whites.

intaglio

Intaglios are large designs on the earth, created by clearing the dark rock of desert pavements and exposing lighter colored rock and sand below.

rock_art1

This image is thought to be a representation of a medicine bag.