Since relocating to Joshua Tree, there has been one site that I had wanted to visit more than any other, that being Indian Cave (CA-RIV-92), better known as “Hidden Cave”. I had first seen pictures of the ancient cave dwelling a few years back, and my interest had been piqued ever since. One thing that you have to understand in regard to the world of “rock art,” archaeologists, and park employees are not permitted to publicly acknowledge the existence of sites that have not been made public (which is a majority of them). Also fellow rock art hunters/explorers are usually very tight-lipped when it comes to sharing information on these sites, especially their locations. This makes tracking them down VERY difficult, a lot of research, and hunting can go into finding a site.
The only information that I had to go on in my search for Indian Cave, were some photographs of the outside of the cave, and the panel of pictographs on the inside. I was aware that the site was in plain site, and likely was associated with a higher profile area in the park. With these few details, I spent the better part of six months in search for the cave. In my search, I had managed to find some other sites that I hadn’t previous been aware of, but Indian Cave continuously lived up to its nickname, “Hidden Cave,” and it sure felt like it didn’t want to be found.
I had spoken with several associates about this site, trying to see if anyone could point me in the right direction. I found that most of them were not familiar with the site, and those that were hadn’t located it either. Then one morning I receive a message, “I think I figured out your hidden cave, you drive by it all the time.” I punched the coordinates into Google Earth, and sure enough, there it was, right along a stretch of road that I travel weekly. I’ve often looked at the area wondering if it was possible, but never bothered to check because I felt that it was just too high-profile.
The next morning I hopped into my vehicle and traveled out to the suspected location. Within 10 minutes of parking, I was crawling through the boulders. I recognized the area from the photographs that I had previously seen. I finally noticed some small red pictographs in a cave shelter, and I thought to myself, “I’m hot on the trail!” I crawled around more, and found myself under an overhang with nearly a dozen faded red pictographs. I didn’t see a cave however, so I double backed and finally saw something that I had missed, a pile of stones stacked up against the base of a large granite boulder.
Knowing the park service and their tricks to keep people from finding cultural sites, I knew that something had to be hidden behind those rocks. I carefully removed the stone pile, placing them to the side. A large crawl space was revealed, and I knew this had to be it! I crawled inside the hollowed out boulder, turned on my lantern, and my mind was BLOWN! Adorning the walls of the cave were dozens of bright red pictographs!
Archeologists documented this site in 1975, long after the park became a National Monument, and then later a National Park. It is likely that the site wasn’t discovered until after the park service developed the area for recreational use. In many cases, sites like these would be protected by developing in areas that have less or no cultural resources.
During the 1975 study of Indian Cave, it was concluded that this was not a long-term village site, but rather a seasonal occupation area. This conclusion was based on there being little signs of long-term habitation.
The three panels of pictographs that make up the entirety of the site contain zoomorphic, circle, and diamond elements, intersecting straight lines, and groups of straight or curved lines. Research indicates one black rectilinear shape, however I examined multiple designs in black pigment. It is possible that some of the black designs are vandalism, but I doubt it based on the other otherwise pristine condition. They have been identified as Southern California Rectilinear Abstract style, and could be associated with Chingishnish puberty ceremonies, which began taking place after 1770.
For having now visited Indian Cave, I feel that this a very spiritual and special place. Despite it’s very public location, the magic in the cave is still there, whatever kind of magic that may be. Upon leaving I rebuilt the stone wall, attempting to make it even more sturdy than what it was when I found it.
If you happen to find Indian Cave, please leave it as you’ve found it. Take only pictures, and leave no trace.
UPDATE – It has been a year since I first visited the cave, so I decided that it was time to pay a return visit. I was never very satisfied with the images that I had captured last year, and decided to reshoot the pictographs and their surroundings (the new images are what you are now seeing on this page). I am very excited to report that the cave, and the pictographs are still in the same condition that they were in when I first visited. The stone wall that encloses the cave entrance is still being maintained by those that are lucky to find it. There is good karma, and good feelings abound at “Hidden Cave”.