Little Lake – Coso Style Petroglyphs & Pictographs

 

NOTE: Little Lake is private property – trespassing is against the law

Little Lake features three major areas where petroglyphs and pictographs are prominent. On this visit I had the opportunity to visit two of the major, and a few of the smaller sites. I will focus on the two major sites, and one of the smaller sites.

Major site 1:

The most extensive site is located on the southeastern side of the lake along a basalt cliff. This location has roughly 500 petroglyphs, most of which are of the Coso Style, and Great Basin style. A number of designs are abstract, but yet there are also a good number that are more traditional. The most interesting aspect of this location are the pictographs (paintings). There are at least seven painted designs intermingled with the petroglyphs. The paintings are in red paint, and are sadly fading with time making it more difficult to see them with the naked eye (the photos that I am providing of the paintings have been enhanced to bring out the designs more). According to the published research of Grant, Baird and Pringle, the paintings are “rectilinear abstractions unlike anything in the region.”

 

Major Site 1: Over 500 petroglyphs are located at this site.

Major Site 1: Over 500 petroglyphs are located at this site.

 

Major Site 1: There are several pictographs (paintings) at this site. This particular pictograph is possibly of a bighorn sheep.

Major Site 1: There are several pictographs (paintings) at this site. This particular pictograph is possibly of a bighorn sheep.

 

Major site 2:

This location is on the north end of the lake (quarter of a mile) along a dry stream bed. When Grant, Baird and Pringle studied the area they dubbed this location “Atlatl Cliff,” due to the large number of atlatl petroglyphs that decorate the cliff side. The atlatl (a large throwing spear that was used by Native people before the introduction of the bow and arrow) being in such high number would likely make this a location where hunting occurred, and the atlatl being etched into the stone so frequently possibly represents hunting magic. It is highly believed that when there are a large number of weapons, and (or) animal etchings present that the Native people made these etchings before a large hunt to bring them “luck”. In all “Atlatl Ciff”, has over one hundred designs, with over thirty of them being of the atlatl.

 

Major Site 2: "Atlatl Cliff" has one of the largest known concentrations of atlatl petroglyphs.

Major Site 2: “Atlatl Cliff” has one of the largest known concentrations of atlatl petroglyphs.

 

Major Site 2: This particular boulder that is covered in atlatls is found in the dry stream bed below the cliff.

Major Site 2: This particular boulder that is covered in atlatls is found in the dry stream bed below the cliff.

 

Minor site:

The minor site is located a short distance from “major site 2”. This site is located in what was once a cave home to the Native people. The cave is known as Stahl Cave, and is believed to have been occupied by the Pinto Basin people over 3,000 years ago, Basketmaker people roughly 1,000 years ago, and the most recent being the Shoshone Indians. An excavation of the cave was performed in 1957, during this excavation the skeleton of a Pinto Basin person had been uncovered, as well many baskets. In the back of the cave there is roughly a dozen crudely etched designs. The designs are mostly made up of long horned sheep, and stick figure humans.

 

Minor Site: Stahl Cave, where a Pinto Basin persons skeleton has been excavated. The back of the cave has a dozen or so crudely pecked designs

Minor Site: Stahl Cave, where a Pinto Basin persons skeleton has been excavated. The back of the cave has a dozen or so crudely pecked designs

 

Minor Site: Long horned sheep, and stick figure humans

Minor Site: Long horned sheep, and stick figure humans

 

In all, this is a fascinating location filled with rich history dating back many thousands of years. I hope to be able to return in the near future to document further the sites that time didn’t allow for on this first visit.

 

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.

2 Comments

  • My wife and I were hiking downstream of Fossil Falls and we met the owner of the property. After talking for a while, he gave us permission to hike the base of the cliff and photograph the glyphs. It was a great addition to our collection of rock art photos.

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