Along a busy hiking trail in Simi Valley there are secrets that few know about, these secrets are the last remaining evidence of what archeologist believe to be the Chumash Village of Maliluwini. Where they believe to have been the main location of the village is now covered in suburban sprawl, but in the hills above evidence still remains of a time when Simi Valley was known as šimiyaš, and the Spanish had yet to indoctrinate the Chumash into Christianity.
I was recently provided the opportunity to visit these sites with a friend and colleague whom resides in Simi Valley, he regularly researches and explores the area for Chumash related villages and “rock art” sites. I have to admit that when we pulled into a busy parking lot that was strung with discarded Starbucks cups, and luxury condominiums across the street, I didn’t have much faith that what my friend wanted to show me would be in any condition to impress me.
We left the parking lot and hiked up the main trail for maybe a quarter of a mile before ditching the well-worn path for a series of game trails that had been forged by the local rabbit, coyote and mountain lion population. It was obvious by the game trails we were following that people don’t venture off the trail here, there were no footprints, and surprisingly no trash to be found. My buddies excitement grew as we approach the first site, I could tell that he was anxious to show me what he had uncovered.
When we arrived at the first site, he pointed out a long piece of bedrock that was protruding from the ground. Along it where a series of deep mortars and cupules, at its highest point there was one wide and deep mortar and a leaching bath. This was the first time that I had seen a leaching bath, but it makes total sense. Acorns were one of the most important foods to the Chumash people in the inland areas, and acorns require a leaching process before they can be consumed. Just as I was getting excited about what I was seeing, my buddy starts dusting off the bedrock to reveal more mortars that were several inches deep. This must have been one heck of an acorn processing facility at some time in the distant past.
Next we headed down hill to a natural rock shelter among a small boulder outcropping, the shelter would have made a lovely place to escape the sun on a hot summer day. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to think so, on a boulder just outside of the shelter are ten cupules in a formation, from left to right the size of the cupules become smaller and smaller. Cupules are considered a form of “rock art,” one of the earliest ways in which early man left behind a mark on the earth. There has recently been some controversy in the archaeological world about how they were formed, and for what purpose. New theories indicate that the indents may have been formed from repeatedly banging a stone onto another stone surface, creating a sound for ceremonial purposes. An interesting theory that I can get on board with. Like the first site, this site also contains several large bedrock mortars.
Onto the third and final location, back up the hill and past the first site to yet another boulder outcropping. A lichen covered rock contains dozens of cupules of various sizes and depths (photographs give it no justice due to the heavy lichen growing over-top of the cupules). Under an overhang a boulder sits broken into three, a mortar is ground into one of the thirds. My buddy reaches below the boulder and pulls out a pestle that fits perfectly into the ground bowl. “When I found this site, I found the pestle just sitting here,” he exclaimed, and went on to say, “I stashed it under the boulder for safe keeping.”
We sat at the third site for sometime, reflecting on the three sites, sharing with each other our thoughts. I for one was excited to see a piece of Chumash history so well-preserved in suburbia.