Indian Cave Paintings of the Los Padres National Forest

Want to learn more about the Indian cave paintings of the Lose Padres National Forest? Read on for facts and info on this important historical treasure discovered in California…

Indian cave paintings are a very popular attraction in tours of the Los Padres National Forest in California. Carbon dating has shown the paintings to be less than two millennia old and there is much scholarly debate as to the meanings of the paintings.

Los Padres National Forest

The Los Padres National Forest is almost two million acres and it covers most of the mountainous coastal area from Ventura in Southern California to Monterrey in Central California and is spread inland over great areas of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, and Kern counties.

Many important wilderness areas are outlined within the forest including the first such area in the united States, the San Rafael Wilderness, as well as the  sixty five thousand acre Dick Smith Wilderness, the even larger Sespe Wilderness, the Silver Peak Wilderness, and the Chumash Wilderness.

The Chumash Native American People

The Chumash tribes used to inhabit the regions in California now comprising San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties and their territories extended from Malibu (meaning “the surf sounds loud” in the original Chumash) to Morro Bay in the north. Diseases brought by the Spanish in the sixteenth century and then the American settlers from the nineteenth century on reduced the Chumash population to two hundred by the 1900s and it has since risen to five thousand.

The Chumash tribe is lauded for a wide variety of arts and crafts. They displayed exquisite skill and craftsmanship in their pottery, basketry, beadwork as well as the art of constructing weapons.

Chumash Painted Caves

There is a whole California State Historic Park dedicated to Chumash Painted Caves. Most Chumash paintings are pictographs or organic and stone based pigment colorings on cave walls although there are also examples of petroglyphs that are stones and walls etched or engraved with tools. The smooth and shallow sandstone caves of the Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park are decorated with images of possibly astronomical and religious significance. Graffiti and damage from settlers over the last two centuries has led to imposition of restrictions on viewing many caves; this historic park is open for public viewing although flash photographs and close contact are prohibited.

Scholars are still uncertain of the meaning of the paintings. However, due to the shamanistic and animist nature of the Chumash religion most people are of the opinion that the paintings have astronomical or spiritual significance. The cave paintings are found near springs and streams all through the wilderness area. The region between the Sierra Madre Mountains and the San Rafael Mountains has many such caves as do areas around the Santa Clara and Ventura rivers. The most accessible is the Chumash Painted Cave State Historical Park which is a short drive from Santa Barbara although the route is narrow and winding.

 

,