“Ventu Springs” Pictographs

In the 1980’s the site of “Ventu Springs” was partially bulldozed by a development company building yet another set of cookie-cutter tract homes along a bustling freeway. Shells, animal bone, arrowheads, and additional tools were unearthed by the contractor, who claimed to have received an incorrect map outlining the archeological areas borders. Archaeologists were called in to survey the damage, the Chumash community was upset, but building over-top of the ancient Chumash prayer ground continued.

Where the houses now stand is believed to have been used by the Chumash as early as 500 AD, not as a village site, but rather for ceremonies. Today there are 1,000 homes in that housing tract, some placed directly over top of the sacred Chumash site. Maybe the 2014 mudslide that engulfed over a dozen of these homes is a direct result of the bad juju that is said to go along with disturbing sacred places.

In the drainages overlooking the tract homes and freeway are cave paintings that have so far been spared from the destructive ways of modern civilization.  It was thought that when the development was going in that the removal of dense vegetation that had once blocked views of the shelters would expose them to looters, and vandals. So far, that has not been the case, and the sites remain beautifully preserved and fairly secluded.

 

Look closely. On the left there is a boulder with an overhang.

Look closely. On the left there is a boulder with an overhang.

 

The shelter.

The shelter.

 

At the first of two caves that I was able to locate (there is said to be a third), a large boulder sits hidden at a spring, in a thicket of dense vegetation. An overhang in the boulder is blackened from fires that had once raged from the back, providing heat and light, or maybe just a fresh canvas for painting images upon. The shelter was tight, but I managed to squeeze underneath while doing my best to avoid poison oak that has sprung up through cracks in the rock. I laid there on my back looking up at the ceiling, there were probably a hundred or so orange lines and designs painted over the soot covered stone, but it was hard to distinguish what any of the designs were. My buddy that I was with insisted that there were small hand prints on the ceiling, but I didn’t see them, I only saw several instances of what appeared to be three fingers smudged along the ceiling. The lower portion of the shelter was caked in mud from the previously mentioned mud slide. In some places you could see the vibrant orange pigment poking out from behind, but it was impossible to make out what had once been there.

 

There is a lot of orange pigment under there.

There is a lot of orange pigment under there.

 

All of it is very hard to make out, looking much like this.

All of it is very hard to make out, looking much like this.

 

...and this.

…and this.

 

The second location is situated higher on the mountain, in a drainage filled with intriguing rock formations, cactus patches, oak trees and succulents. This site is visible from the highway below, but I doubt that anyone thinks anything of the rocks above, as they speed by focused on whatever their task at hand is. When I reached the site, and turned around to look at it, I was blown away by the vibrant orange pigment that adorned the walls.  The vibrancy hints at the possibility that these pictographs have been touched up over time, and may still be used by members of the Chumash Tribe as a spiritual, or ritualistic site to this day.

The designs here aren’t just lines and squiggles, but rather full on depictions of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and aquatic motifs. Designs range in size from as small as a penny to as large as a breadbox. The small designs are intricate, having been painted with a brush of human hair. The larger designs are much bolder, and with thick lines. There are many similarities between the designs here and in the Los Padres National Forest, and Malibu.

With all said, I will shut up, and allow you the opportunity to peruse the pictographs for yourself.

 

Looking out of the drainage toward to the freeway.

Looking out of the drainage toward to the freeway.

 

Cactus patches catch the early morning sun.

Cactus patches catch the early morning sun.

 

One of my favorite pieces of the panel. Upper right appears to be a condor design. Below it is a figure that looks similar to one of the "Malibu Twins."

One of my favorite pieces of the panel. Upper right appears to be a condor design. Below it is a figure that looks similar to one of the “Malibu Twins.”

 

A large piece of the panel.

A large piece of the panel.

 

Lots of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures.

Lots of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures.

 

 

X X X X X

 

Note: The name of this site has been changed in an effort to mask its identity. I have provided several clues for those willing to do the homework to find it.

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.