“Robber Rocks” Pictographs

Lizard pictographs with upturned legs (non-enhanced)
Rock shelter at "Robber Rocks" which contains red, black, and white pictographs.

Rock shelter at “Robber Rocks” which contains red, black, and white pictographs.

 

A fellow rock art enthusiast, and friend was out for a hike in the mountains of Los Angeles County. Much to his surprise, he stumbled upon a rock shelter that had a number of pictographs adorning the walls. He carefully photographed them, and documented the location of the shelter, while at the same time he was not 100% convinced that what he had just found was real. He had hiked this area many times over the last fifteen years, but had never once found any sign of rock art.

Immediately upon seeing the images that he had captured, I knew that I wanted to visit this site. We both did some research in the following days, and made plans to meet the following weekend. In our research we managed to find some information on the site, but most of it pointed to a nearby site in which the pictographs had been recreated by park officials, not the original site that we felt that he had found.

That following weekend we met up, and ventured out to the rock shelter. What was so surprising to me as we approached the site was how close to civilization it was located, maybe 1,000 feet away there were ranches and homes, luckily this rock shelter was within a protected area. Since I had already seen the pictures, I knew that I was in for a treat, and I couldn’t wait to see them with my own eyes.

 

Black and red anthropomorph (human figure)

Black and red anthropomorph (human figure)

 

I entered the shelter, and there they were…faint pictographs painted in red, white and black pigments. The most prominent design is a black and red anthropomorph (human figure). Other designs in the same general area consist of rake like patterns, and dots. Parts of many of the designs are no longer visible, I tried to use the Dstretch software to pull out faded colors on the rocks surface, but unfortunately it didn’t do much good. I believe that over the years the sandstone has flaked off, which has also removed pieces of the painted designs.

On one side of the shelter, there is a large boulder with a crawl space inside of it, I crawled in to see if there was anything inside, as my companion hadn’t checked this on his previous trip. Sure enough there was a number of designs in black pigment, as well as very faint red designs. Upon further research of these particular designs, I came across a source that claims this design to be of a volcanic explosion.

 

Black and red pictographs inside of a crawl space. Further research has lead me to believe that the design is of a volcanic eruption.

Black and red pictographs inside of a crawl space. Further research has lead me to believe that the design is of a volcanic eruption.

 

This panel inside of the crawl space sure doesn't look like much to the naked eye.

This panel inside of the crawl space sure doesn’t look like much to the naked eye.

 

However once you enhance the lost colors with Dstretch you seen a sunburst motif, and other designs.

However once you enhance the lost colors with Dstretch you seen a sunburst motif, and other designs.

 

Next, we made our way around the shelter to an overhang. Under the overhang there are more pictographs, again in the red, and black pigments, to add to the mix there is also a few with a greyish/blue pigment. There are many anthropomorph figures here, most with elongated bodies, as well as zoomorphic designs such as lizards, and a snake. A crack is present in the rock, a high concentration of pigment was places around and inside of it, it seems to have been altered to give it the shape of a yoni (vagina).  Based on the elongated bodied human figures, the symbolization of the snake and lizard in fertility beliefs, as well as the yoni, I speculate that this site was used for fertility ceremonies.

 

Elongated bodied anthropomorphic designs. Also note the crack in the rock, which has clearly been formed into a yoni (vagina), and the large concentration of pigment around it. (non-enhanced)

Elongated bodied anthropomorphic designs. Also note the crack in the rock, which has clearly been formed into a yoni (vagina), and the large concentration of pigment around it. (non-enhanced)

 

Elongated bodied anthropomorphic designs. (enhanced)

Elongated bodied anthropomorphic designs. (enhanced)

 

Anthropomorph with elongated body. A spiral design is to the left. (non-enhanced)

Anthropomorph with elongated body. A spiral design is to the left. (non-enhanced)

 

Anthropomorph with elongated body. A spiral design is to the left. (enhanced)

Anthropomorph with elongated body. A spiral design is to the left. (enhanced)

 

Lizard pictograph with upturned legs (non-enhanced)

Lizard pictograph with upturned legs (non-enhanced)

 

Snake pictograph (non-enhanced)

Snake pictograph (non-enhanced)

 

Cupules (a form of petroglyph) are found on a nearby rock.

Cupules (a form of petroglyph) are found on a nearby rock.

 

After spending some time examining this site, we set off to further explore the area, with the hopes of finding additional rock art. We spent the next several hours ducking under rock overhangs, and crawling into caves.  It was beginning to look grim, nothing in addition had been found, and just about everywhere we looked seemed like the perfect location. We had  following what was clearly a dried waterway, when we reached the end of it, we found ourselves at a wall of stone.

We began to walk the length of the stone wall when I noticed a granite rock with mortar holes on top of it, at about the same time my wife yelled, “found some!”. Sure enough, she did! The pictograph designs at this location are much more simplistic than those found just a mile or so away, most of the designs consist of lines, and are all red pigment. A few faint lizard designs are present as well.  Unlike the first site that we had visited, I believe this to be a habitation site as opposed to a ceremonial site. I’m lead to this conclusion based on the presence of the mortars, the mortars served the purpose of grinding food items, and food would have usually been prepared close to home.

 

Habitation area with mortars in the granite rock.

Habitation area with mortars in the granite rock.

 

Faint lizard pictograph (non-enhanced)

Faint lizard pictograph (non-enhanced)

 

Faint lizard pictograph (enhanced)

Faint lizard pictograph (enhanced)

 

An interesting pattern. Also notice that there are scratches going over the design. I don't believe these scratches are vandalism, but rather part of the design.

An interesting pattern. Also notice that there are scratches going over the design. I don’t believe these scratches are vandalism, but rather part of the design.

 

The Alliklik, now known as the Tataviam Indians, occupied this portion of Los Angeles County from around 200 B.C. to the late 1700’s A.D.

The name Titaviam means, “people facing the sun”. They received this name because they lived in shelters that always had an opening to the east, in order to receive the first rays of the morning sun.

It is widely believed that the Tataviam people never ventured far outside of their small territory that they called home for nearly 2,000 years.  Their population at any given time likely never reached over two-hundred. The land that they lived upon provided them with everything that they needed to survive; a year round source of water, both large and small game, and fertile soil.

Twenty-four archaeological sites have been discovered in the immediate area. Archaeological digs at these sites have uncovered stone bowls, tools, weapons, as well as human remains.

People of Titaviam descent are still alive today, it is estimated that the number of people with the bloodline number around 1,000. Six people claim to be full-blooded Titaviam.

 

 

Interested in visiting this site?

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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.

  • pat

    That is an awesome find and great photos by you!