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DATING THE ROCK DRAWINGS

OF THE COSO RANGE:

PROJECTILE POINT PETROGLYPHS

anthropomorph with arrowheads

By: Alan P. Garfinkel and J. Kenneth Pringle
  Alan P. Garfinkel Ph.D. candidate completing his dissertation at the University of California, Davis; researching population movements and linguistic prehistory. Currently with the Central California Heritage Resources Branch, California Department of Transportation.

J. Kenneth Pringle Formerly with the China Lake Naval Weapons Station Ridgecrest, California. Co-author of "Rock Drawings of the Coso Range".

 

 
 
Identification and analysis of a series of corner-notched projectile point petroglyph images located in the Coso Range of eastern California provide suggestive evidence that these particular glyphs date to the period when Rose Spring and Eastgate style arrow points were in use. Both styles of points are chronologically diagnostic for the time span from ca. A.D. 600 to 1300 and possibly slightly earlier. Differential patination and superposition of bedrock milling slicks identified in the vicinity of these projectile point glyphs seem to indicate later occupations by a different group of culturally distinct people.

 

 
PREVIOUS INVESTIGATIONS

The depiction of realistic renderings of projectile point forms is an unusual feature at rock art sites (Table 1). This rare occurrence has only been documented at a handful of archaeological sites in North America (Callahan 2003; Keyser and Klassen 2001; Riggs 2001; Sutherland and Steed 1974; Thomas and Thomas 1972).
 
Table 1.  North American projectile point rock art sites
Rock Art Style/Site Name Point Form Dating Location Reference
Coso Representational
     (Schaafsma)
Rose Spring/
Eastgate
A.D. 600-1300 E. California This paper
Great Basin Painted   Thomas and Thomas 1972
     Toquima Cave Eastgate
Lind Coulee?
A.D. 600-1300          ? Nevada
     Gate Cliff Elko?
Pinto?
4000 B.C.-A.D. 600
8000-3000 B.C.
Nevada
Western Archaic Tradition Cienega 800 B.C.-A.D. 150 Arizona Riggs 2001
Dinwoody Various A.D.500-1000 Wyoming Keyser and Klassen 2001
Great Basin Representational   This Paper
     Lagomarsino Elko 4000 B.C.-A.D. 600 Nevada
     Dancing/Cane Man Elko 4000 B.C.-A.D. 600 Nevada
Jeffers Petroglyphs Old Copper 1500-500 B.C. Minnesota Callahan 2003
Diablo Dam Shumla "Archaic" Texas Sutherland and Steed 1974
 
 
Campbell Grant and his associates initially recognized a number of such projectile point petroglyphs within the Coso Range (Grant et al. 1968:37). The authors mentioned them only briefly in a single paragraph within their lengthy 147 page landmark monograph. For this study we relocated most of those sites, discovered some new ones and attempted to correlate the most common corner-notched form with temporally diagnostic southwestern Great Basin point styles to help date the Coso petroglyphs (Figure 1). This study was limited to the area within the confines of the China Lake Naval Weapons Center and the glyphs at Little Lake. Other examples of Coso Style petroglyphs are known outside that area including those in the El Paso Mountains, Panamint Mountains and Argus Range. Those other areas were not included in this research.

coso range area map


 

Figure 1.  Location of Coso Style rock art area

 

 
LOCATIONS AND FREQUENCY
Grant and his colleagues originally illustrated 13 glyphs containing 17 individual projectile point images occurring at five distinct localities within the Coso Range (Grant et al. 1968:37). Five of these images depict anthropomorphs with single or multiple projectile point adornments (Figure 2). The remaining eight (8) images were individual glyphs depicting arrow or dart points hafted to wood foreshafts.

 

coso projectile points

  Figure 2. Projectile point petroglyphs from Grant et al. 1968:37. (a), (g), and
  (h)  Little Petroglyph (Renegade) Canyon; (b) Darwin Wash; (c) Parish Gorge;
  (d) and (e) Sunrise Cliffs; (f) Sheep Canyon

 


We were able to relocate all but four of the previously illustrated glyphs (see Grant et al. 1968:37 lower figure b, c and g). In visiting and relocating most of the projectile point petroglyph panels known to occur in the Coso Range, we identified a few more distinctive and even more realistically rendered elements not previously identified. Well-grounded estimates for the total number of petroglyph elements in the entire Coso Range locality now suggest a minimum tally of 100,000 individual elements (Gilreath 1997). Yet no more than 26 glyphs bearing 38 individual projectile point images have been identified.

As originally reported in Grant et al. (1968) and by our own field visits, we now recognize projectile point petroglyphs at the following localities: CA-Iny-9A/S-15 (Sheep Canyon- formally recorded as CA-INY-1375) (8), Little Petroglyph (Renegade) Canyon (6), Big Petroglyph Canyon (5), Dead End Canyon (1), CA-Iny-11 (Darwin Wash) (2), CA-Iny-5 (Junction Ranch 3/Sunrise Cliffs) (2), CA-Iny-43 (Parrish Gorge) (2) and Little Lake (2). Two types of glyphs are represented: isolated or individual projectile point images (19) and anthropomorphs with projectile point adornments (9).
 

 

Table 2.  Distribution of projectile point petroglyphs in the Coso Range by location and type

Site

n Projectile points Anthropomorphs with
Point Adornments
Shouldered Corner-notched
Sheep Canyon (CA-Iny-1375) (8) 2 6 -
Little Petroglyph (Renegade) Canyon (8) 5 - 1
Big Petroglyph Canyon (5) - 3 2
Dead End Canyon (1) - 1 -
CA-Iny-11 (Darwin Wash) (2) - - 2
CA-Iny-5 (Junction Ranch 3/Sunrise Cliffs (2) - - 2
CA-Iny-43 (Parish Gorge) (2) - - 2
Little Lake (2) - 2 -


Totals

(28) 7 12 9

 

Tabulating the various types of glyphs, styles of projectile points and their locations provided the following observations (Tables 2 and 3). Most of the points recognized would be classified as corner-notched forms. Corner-notched points occurred both as isolated images and in conjunction with anthropomorphs. All anthropomorphs were adorned with points that were corner-notched. Most all depictions, whether isolated or with anthropomorphs, were corner-notched points. Shouldered points were found in the greatest number in Little Petroglyph Canyon – among some of the oldest glyphs in the Cosos. Those shouldered points are more highly patinated then many of the corner-notched examples. The logical conclusion is that the predominant depiction of points in Coso petroglyphs was a corner-notched image with noticeable barbs. In this study we consider what the most likely analog or morphological equivalent for this corner-notched point form is in terms of standard Great Basin projectile point typology (Holmer 1986; Thomas 1981).

Table 3. Types and frequency of projectile point petroglyphs from the Coso Range.

Individual projectile point images
     Corner-notched 12
     Shouldered 7
          Total 19
 
Projectile Point Adorned Anthropomorphs *
     With only corner-notched points 7
     With Corner-notched and Shouldered points 2
     With only Shouldered Points 0
          Total 9
 
Number of Corner-notched points depicted
     with anthropomorphs
12
Number of Shouldered points depicted with
     anthropomorphs
2
 
Total number of Corner-notched points depicted
     in all glyphs
23
Total number of Shouldered points in all glyphs 9
Unclassifiable 9
 

* Most anthropomorphs have more than one projectile point

 
CLASSIFICATION OF POINT STYLES

Three broad categories of projectile point forms are commonly recognized in the Great Basin: shouldered, side-notched and corner-notched (Thomas 1981). Although no true metrics are available for the Coso point petroglyphs (such as the actual length, width, thickness or weight of the artifacts they represent), it is possible to estimate from the glyph outlines their gross general morphology. Other operational criteria that have routinely been used to classify projectile points can also be estimated including: approximate Distal Shoulder Angles, possible Proximal Shoulder Angles, Basal Width/Maximum Width Ratios and Notch Opening Indexes.

Unfortunately the bases on all the point petroglyphs are obscured by the petroglyph representation itself - since they all are rendered as though they were hafted on foreshafts. Yet even with the latter condition, the isolated examples contain no side-notched specimens. The points adorning the anthropomorphs might lead us to think they might represent side-notched points as they do contain rather incurvate edges. Yet we think this is actually a “visual short hand” and are intended as an artistic convention meant to depict the prominently represented corner-notches, barbs or tangs as seen clearly in the outlines of the less stylized, isolated, corner-notched Coso point petroglyphs (Figures 3 and 4).

For the corner-notched examples, the notch opening index, as represented in the most realistically rendered, individual Coso point images, might be estimated to average about 50 degrees, the distal shoulder angle would average about 140 degrees and proximal shoulder angles might average about 90 degrees. Assuming that the points depicted do not have concave bases, they would appear to have basal indentation ratios near 1.0. The basal width / maximum width position we would estimate at 0.0 and the maximum width position is 0%.

 

Foreshafts
 

With most other examples of projectile point petroglyphs, realistically rendered rock art images exist and the researchers have tried to use these depictions as templates in order to equate them with certain styles of points having chronological sensitivity. In the current case, a confounding feature was evident. The Coso images differed from most others in that they were hafted to foreshafts making their exact basal morphologies somewhat more difficult to discern (Figure 3 and 4).
 

arrowhead petroglyphs

projectile point adorned anthropomorphs

Figure 3.  Projectile point petroglyphs from the Coso Range. (a) through (h) Sheep Canyon; (i) Dead End Canyon; (j) and (k) Big Petroglyph Canyon; (l) through (p) Little Petroglyph (Renegade) Canyon; (q) and (r) Little Lake. Figure 4.  Projectile point adorned anthropomorphs from the Coso Range. (a) Parish Gorge; (b) Junction Ranch/Sunrise Cliffs; (c) Little Petroglyph (Renegade) Canyon; (d) Iny-43/Parish Gorge; (e) and (f) Iny-5/Junction Ranch 3/Sunrise Cliffs; (g) and (h) Big Petroglyph Canyon; (i) Iny-11/Darwin Wash.
 
Wood foreshafts were common components of atlatl dart forms manufactured prehistorically. Less commonly recognized is the fact that arrow points could also be manufactured with hard wood foreshafts especially when using cane or reed (Phragmites communis) for the shafts of composite arrows. In the John Wesley Powell Collection (1867-1880) of Numic hafted arrowheads, with only one exception, all arrows (99) with reed-cane mainshafts also have hard wood foreshafts (Figure 5 - this paper and Fowler and Matley 1979:64, Figures 52 and 53).
 

desert side notched and cottonwood arowheads

desert sidenotched arrowheads
Figure 5.1. Desert side-notched projectile points.
From left to right, Desert General; Desert General,
Humboldt County, Nevada; Desert Delta; Desert Delta;
Desert Sierra. Photo by Donald Austin.
 
cottonwood arowheads
Figure 5.  Numic hafted arrows from the John Wesley Powell Collection. From Fowler and Matley 1979:64, Figures 52 and 53. Top row -- Hafted Desert Side-notched style arrow points; Bottom row -- Hafted Cottonwood style arrow points. Figure 5.2. Cottonwood projectile points, Great Basin.
Right and center right, Cottonwood triangles; left and
center left, Cottonwood Leaf. Photo by Donald Austin.
 
Examination of the Coso drawings led a number of archaeologists to suggest the possibility that what we were viewing were dart points attached to foreshafts that were used with atlatls in hunting large game, based simply on the large size (10-15 x 5 cm) of some of the point images. Hence we reviewed common dart point forms for possible analogs.

 

Elko Series
The prominent barbs or tangs displayed by some of the Coso projectile point glyphs could correspond to elements morphologically equivalent with dart points of the Elko series. Heizer and Baumhoff (1961) were the original identifiers of Elko points. To better compare the Coso glyphs, a hafted Elko series point, still attached to its foreshaft and recovered from Lovelock Cave, was reviewed (Loud and Harrington 1929:178, Plate 45c). That specimen does not appear to conform in basal morphology or overall outline to the corner-notched Coso point glyphs. Significantly, some recently identified projectile point petroglyphs from Nevada do closely resemble Elko series points (Sue Ann Monteleone and Alanah Woody personal communications 2003).
 

 

hafted elko arrowhead drawings

Figure 6.  (a) Hafted Elko Corner-notched style from Lovelock Cave. From Loud and Harrington 1929:178 and Plate 45c; (b) Artists reconstruction of hafted Elko Corner-notched style point with wooden foreshaft; (c) Reproduced renderings of comparably scaled Elko Corner-notched style point petroglyph from the Dancing Man Site in Nevada and actual dart point of the same style; (d) Reproduced renderings of comparably scaled Elko Corner notched style projectile point petroglyph from the Dancing Man site in Nevada and actual point of the same style. Projectile point renderings [c & d] by Noel Justice (2002).
 

projectile point petroglyphs

elko dart point drawings

Figure 7.  Elko Eared Style projectile point petroglyphs from the Lagomarsino site and drawings of similar style projectile points.
Photo by Alanah Woody.
 
Projectile point petroglyphs at the Lagomarsino and Dancing Man sites bear a striking similarity to Elko-Eared (Lagomarsino) and Elko-Corner-notched forms (Dancing Man) (Figures 6-8). At the Dancing Man site we have both hafted and unhafted images. The hafted point glyph from Dancing Man compares favorably to the Lovelock Cave example. At Lagomarsino all the images are unhafted. The Elko style projectile point petroglyphs from Nevada are quite different from the Coso glyphs. They lack the characteristic tangs or barbs found in the corner-notched Coso glyphs and have proximal shoulder angles between 110 and 150 degrees. The Coso corner-notched glyphs would appear to have proximal shoulder angles that might range from 90 to 110 degrees (cf. Justice 2002: 436). Those Elko forms date to a period from about 4000 BC to AD 600 in Nevada (Gilreath and Hildebrandt 1997; Justice 2002).
 

elko arowhead petroglyph

 

elko projectile points

Figure 8.
  Elko Corner-notched projectile point petroglyphs from the Dancing Man site. Photo by Alanah Woody.
  Figure 8.1.  Elko projectile points. Left and center, Elko eared, Nye
County Nevada; Right, Elko corner-notched, Panamint Valley, California.
Photo by Donald Austin.

Humboldt and Desert Series


Yet another possibility is that the Coso corner-notched point petroglyphs were representations of hafted Humboldt or Desert Series (Cottonwood or Desert Side-notched) points. Examination of hafted examples of Humboldt style points from Hidden Cave (Pendleton 1985) and the hafted Cottonwood and Desert Side-notched types from the John Wesley Powell collection (Fowler and Matley 1979) appeared to rule out these as likely possibilities (Figures 5 and 9). In neither case did the hafted points contain the distinctive tangs found on many of the Coso corner-notched point glyphs. Cottonwood and Humboldt series points are shouldered and so would be ruled out as analogs for most of the corner-notched Coso point drawings. It may be noted here that one or two of the shouldered points depicted at Sheep Canyon give the impression of possibly being Humboldt Basal-notched analogs but no firm conclusion can be reached in that regard (Figure 3 a and f).
 

hafted humboldt projectile point drawing

Figure 9. Hafted Humboldt Basal notched bifaces from
Hidden Cave, Nevada. From Pendleton 1985:198, Figure 62.

humboldt projectile points

  Figure 9.1. Humboldt style projectile points, Humboldt County, Nevada. Left, Humboldt-triangular; right, Humboldt-constricted base.
Photo by Donald Austin.
 
Desert Side-notched points did not compare favorably with most of the Coso renderings in terms of their proximal shoulder angles (Thomas 1970, 1971; Thomas et al. 1976). The Coso point glyphs also do not have the distinctive side-notches that conform to the Desert Side-notched form (see discussion above for the point glyphs adorning the anthropomorphs).

 

Rose Spring and Eastgate Series

Alternatively, many of the distinctively corner-notched and prominently tanged or barbed Coso projectile point petroglyphs could be representations of arrow points of the Rose Spring or Eastgate series (Heizer and Baumhoff 1961; Lanning 1963). Rose Spring points were originally recognized from the type-site of that same name located in southern Owens Valley at the edge of the Coso Range (Lanning 1963). Eastgate points were first identified in the materials from Wagon Jack Shelter, near Eastgate, Nevada (Heizer and Baumhoff 1961).
 

projectile point petroglyphs

petroglyph projectile point anthropomorph


Figure 10.
Sheep Canyon projectile point petroglyphs. Photo by Ken Pringle.
 
Figure 11. Projectile point adorned anthropomorph from Sunrise Cliffs. Scale is 15 cm (6 inches) in length. Photo by Alan Garfinkel.

 

   

Rose Spring and Eastgate arrow points are reasonably well-dated (Bettinger and Taylor 1974; Justice 2002). Robert Yohe’s research at the type-site itself indicates a beginning date of ca. A.D. 300 and a terminal date of ca. AD 1300 for both forms. This temporal span is based on the vertical distribution of Rose Spring and Eastgate arrow points and their associated radiocarbon determinations at the physically and culturally stratified site of Rose Spring (Yohe1992, 1998). An example of a Rose Spring point from Tommy Tucker Cave in Lassen County still retained a horizontal wrapping of sinew across its haft element indicating that the shoulder barbs were normally left free and the wrapping extended onto the arrow foreshaft (Riddell 1956: Plate 1, 34). This is important since the representations of the points in the Coso glyphs depict this characteristic feature.

petroglyph anthropomorph projectile point

 

 

Figure 12. Projectile point adorned anthropomorph from little Petroglyph Canyon. Photo by Bill Wight.
   
Many of the Coso projectile point petroglyphs seem especially reminiscent of arrow points classified as members of the Eastgate Expanding Stem or Rose Spring Corner-notched style (Figures 11-15). Examination and comparison of the Coso drawings revealed a number of renderings bearing some similarity to the rock art images identified in Toquima Cave. Researchers there suggested that most of these were in fact analogs of the Eastgate style (Thomas and Thomas 1972). Eastgates are thought by some researchers to integrade with Rose Spring style points and Thomas went so far as to develop a single appellation to describe the series of points he termed as Rosegate (Thomas 1971:19).

projectile point petroglyph

 

 

Figure 13. Projectile point petroglyph from Sheep Canyon.
Photo by Ken Pringle.

 

hafted projectile point drawings

coso arowhead drawings and petroglyph outlines

Figure 14.  Artists conception of hafted Corner-notched points comparably scaled with projectile point petroglyph element (Sheep Canyon). (a) Hafted Rose Spring Corner-notched projectile point, (b) Outline of of Sheep Canyon, Coso Point glyph. (c) Hafted Eastgate Expanding Stem Projectile point. Points from Justice 2002. Figure 15.  (a), (b), and (c) 0utline of Coso projectile point petroglyph and drawing of Eastgate projectile point (points from Justice 2002); (d) Outline of Coso projectile point petroglyph and drawing of Rose Spring corner notched projectile point.
   
The Rose Spring Corner-notched type is a narrow triangular arrow point with shallow corner notches placed at the intersection of the blade and base elements. Arrow points that are similar in overall morphology are known as Eastgate Expanding Stem types. The Eastgate Expanding Stem form is a wide triangular arrow point with deep notches placed along the base; leaving squared or rounded shoulder barbs and sometimes an expanding stem. The Eastgate forms are rather distinctive in that they have prominently barbed shoulders. These points also have blade forms that in some instances are actually slightly concave in outline (Figure 10). Many are quite large and broad having an outline not unlike an equilateral triangle. The notches are narrow and completed in a fashion such that the point outline is uninterrupted. Hence, the barbs might be described as “hanging” or extending to the level of the base or even farther (Delacorte 1990:118). rose springs projectile points
Figure 15.1.
Rose Springs projectile points from eastern Nevada.
Photo by Donald Austin.
   
Eastgate points are not common in the Coso Range and Owens Valley. They are not, however, as rare as some believe (Lanning 1963:253). Archaeological studies have in fact revealed a fair number of Eastgate and sharply-barbed, look-alike Rose Spring Corner Notched points (cf. Basgall and Giambastini 1995, Figure 4.2 a-j; Basgall and McGuire 1988, Plate 27 a and d; Bettinger 1989: Figure 9.12 m-r; Eerkens and King 2002, Figure 7, top row center and 2nd row extreme right; Gilreath and Hildebrandt 1997: 75, Plate 2 i and n; Jackson 1985, Plate 11 a-f) in the Coso Range and Owens Valley area. Extensive excavations conducted in direct association with a large concentration of Coso petroglyphs in upper Renegade Canyon (Gilreath 2000 summarizing their unpublished notes from excavations by Phil Wilke) recovered 22 Rose Spring, three Eastgate and two indeterminate Rose Spring or Eastgate style points. Sixteen Elko, two Desert Side-notched and no Cottonwood or Humboldt forms were retrieved. eastgate projectile points

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Figure 15.2. Eastgate projectile points from eastern Nevada.
Photo by Donald Austin.

 

The evidence we’ve mustered here seems to support the notion that corner-notched projectile point petroglyph images in the Cosos are most likely analogs for either the Rose Spring Corner-notched or Eastgate forms. Other forms are certainly a possibility but less likely. The other corner-notched point form that could be a possibility is the Elko Corner-notched form. We reject this idea since observation of the petroglyph images of what we believe to be Elko Corner-notched forms at the Dancing Man site in Nevada are rather different than the Coso glyphs (Figures 6 and 8).

It must be admitted that these Coso corner-notched point petroglyph images are sometimes rendered with considerable “artistic license” and flourishing design and at other times are rather simplistically drawn and always hafted to arrow foreshafts. The most readily discernible examples are indeed the eight (8) images found in the three panels in Sheep Canyon (5), Dead End (1) and Big Petroglyph Canyon (2) localities within the Coso Range (Figure 2 top row, b-e and middle row b, e and f). The Rose Spring and Eastgate series have a limited time range from ca. AD 600 to 1300 or slightly earlier and it would seem most likely that the glyphs are roughly contemporaneous with the subject matter (see similar discussion in Thomas and Thomas 1972).
 


SHEEP CANYON


Grant et al. (1968:70) noted that this Sheep Canyon locality (S-15, Iny-9A) contained some 744 drawings and that over half of those renderings were of bighorn sheep. Grant and his associates further suggested that the petroglyphs in this area would most reasonably date to their Transitional (200 B.C – A.D. 300) and Late (A.D. 300 – 1000) periods. Primarily they argued that the sheep representations in Sheep Canyon are in many cases “better” rendered than elsewhere in the Cosos and that a number of the rock art sites within the canyon are devoid of atlatl depictions. If their arguments are correct then the greatest number of the Rose Spring/Eastgate projectile point petroglyphs might be associated with this late-dating locality. That is in fact the situation we have at hand, where six individual corner-notched projectile point images have been identified in that area (Table 2). That is the highest number for any location yet identified within the Coso Range.

 

SYMBOLIC DIMENSIONS OF PROJECTILE POINTS AND COSO ROCK ART

It also stands to reason that if Rose Spring and Eastgate style points are correlated with the introduction of the bow and arrow in eastern California, then these novel forms might be the subjects for religious veneration and illustration. Multiple projectile point funerary offerings accompany burials in the eastern California region only during the juncture of the late Newberry and early Haiwee periods, ca. AD 300-1000 (Gilreath and Holanda 2000:123). This is precisely the time period when the bow and arrow appears to have been introduced in eastern California and contemporaneous with the time period we suggest for dating the corner-notched projectile points and all the projectile point adorned anthropomorphs depicted in the Coso Range petroglyphs.

This suggests considerable ritual and ceremonial significance for projectile points during this limited time span. This might be partly due to the greater success of the bow and arrow in the hunt - over the former dart and atlatl weaponry. Alternatively, projectile point renderings may be seen as part of the elaboration of the Coso artistic tradition correlated with an intensified episode of ritual activity occurring in the late Newberry and early Haiwee periods. This elaboration of rock art production may have occurred as a response to the local extirpation of bighorn sheep. If the Coso bighorn population was regionally decimated, one likely response to this condition would be an upsurge in religious activities as a supernatural means intended to bring back the sheep. Such religious zeal is a common cultural manifestation to the sudden disruption of a long standing social patterns and an expression of social anxiety.

A recent suggestion by Hildebrandt and McGuire (2002) echoes the importance of the symbolic dimension of male hunting technology and its association with the rather spectacular artistic realm of the Coso tradition. It is their thesis that the elaborate prestige or “show-off” behaviors of male hunters, directing their attention at big game animals (specifically large artiodactyls such as bighorn, pronghorn and deer), conferred preferential fitness benefits to these male hunters. If such were the case, the depiction of projectile point images would logically be part of just such a pattern, where male hunters accrued power and hunting success through sympathetic magic facilitating the hunting of large game.

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR DATING OF THE COSO RANGE ROCK ART

Gilreath (1999) used obsidian hydration rim readings associated with 43 single-period Coso Range sites to evaluate the various dating schemes for the Coso petroglyphs (Figure 17). Her research points to the Late Newberry and Haiwee periods (A.D. 1 – 1300) in the local chronological sequence as the time spans when the greatest number of rock art sites occurred. Rock art elements present at these sites are chiefly representational motifs (65%). Earlier sites are dominated by abstract designs. Gilreath has further identified a rather abrupt decline and termination for the petroglyph drawings dating to ca. AD 1300 (with 94% of the 505 obsidian hydration rim readings in her study falling into earlier time spans). Her work indicates that Coso rock art is predominantly a pre-Marana period expression (greater than 3.7 microns of lowland Coso hydration), with a distinctive Haiwee-period emphasis (AD 600 - 1300, 3.7-4.9 microns).

Such a scheme would seem to be supported given the frequency and prominence of the Rose Spring/Eastgate series projectile point petroglyphs in the Coso Range. A notable absence of either Desert Side-notched or Cottonwood Triangular projectile point petroglyph forms (Marana period time markers) and the fact that earlier dart forms are a more minor component further bolsters this contention (Tables 2 and 3).

Contextual data from the Inyo-Mono region also suggests that petroglyphs and milling features were produced during different temporal periods (cf. Basgall and Giambastini 1995). In many instances, throughout the region, bedrock slicks are superimposed over petroglyph panels, but never the reverse. This is a pattern that appears to characterize the entire area of eastern California and all of Nevada (Bettinger and Baumhoff 1982). The grinding slicks generally exhibit much less patination being significantly lighter in color than the surrounding glyphs.

The location and patination of bedrock milling features, in the general vicinity of the projectile point petroglyphs in Sheep Canyon in the Coso Range, provide further support for a late prehistoric age for the milling basins with the petroglyphs appearing to be more ancient. Assuming that the manufacturers of the Coso petroglyphs would be adverse to obliterating their own previous work, it seems most probable what we are dealing with here are more recent images superimposed by a different group of people (cf. Bettinger and Baumhoff 1982; Quinlan and Woody 2003). The manufacturers of the bedrock milling surfaces were probably the Numic immigrants who displaced the previous inhabitants of the area (yet see Whitley 1994, 1998 for a varying interpretation of the chronological placement and ethnic affiliation of the Coso glyphs). This interpretation of the projectile point petroglyphs is congruent with some other interpretations of Great Basin rock art style dates (see Heizer and Baumhoff 1962; Schaafsma 1986; but see Whitley 1994, 1998 for a different interpretation of the Coso glyphs).

 

Figure 16. Composite hydration profile of Coso hydration rim values at archaeological sites in the Coso Range.
From Gilreath (1999:11, Figure 1).
 

Period designations conform to the following parameters:
 
  Period Age (years before present) Hydration Range in Microns
  Marana <650 <3.7
  Haiwee 650-1275 3.7 to 4.9
  Newbery 1275-3500 4.9 to 7.6
  Little Lake 3500-5500 7.6 to 9.2
  Early >5500 >9.2
 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS


The authors particularly appreciate the help of Jan Lawson, Carolyn Shepherd and Russ Kaldenberg of the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station for facilitating access to the Coso Range for this research. We are grateful to Elva Younkin, Director of the Maturango Museum, for sharing data on past rock art studies conducted by Campbell Grant and his associates and aiding in many invaluable ways to this report. We thank Sue Ann Monteleone and Alannah Woody of the Nevada State Museum for sharing their photographs and information on the Lagomarsino and Dancing Man sites in Nevada. We are particularly indebted to key staff members of the Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Davis, California, including most particularly Amy Gilreath, William Hildebrandt and Kelly McGuire for freely sharing details of their unpublished research and providing comments and direction for this effort. Caroline Maddock alerted us to additional examples of projectile point petroglyphs and patterned bodied anthropomorphs with projectile point adornments located through her research in the Coso Range. We are most grateful for her generosity in sharing her data with us. We would also like to acknowledge the Little Lake point glyph materials graciously provided by Jo Anne Van Tilberg, Research Associate of the Cotson Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Lastly, we appreciate the ongoing dialogue with our friend and colleague, Eric Ritter. His enthusiasm and insights on the subjects of art history, shamanism, and the ethnic identification of prehistoric rock art are always welcome.

 

This article appears in American Indian Rock Art, Volume 30, published by American Rock Art Research Association. ARARA is the oldest rock art organization in the world and is dedicated to the support of rock art research, conservation and education.
 

Garfinkel_Austin_Pringle

 
 

Alan Garfinkel, Donald Austin, & J Kenneth Pringle
 at an Eastern Sierra pictograph site.

 

 

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REFERENCES CITED

Basgall, Mark E.
2002 Chronometrics in Results of Phase II Investigations at 26 Archaeological Sites for the Aberdeen-Blackrock Four-Lane Project on Highway 395, Inyo County, California by David W. Zeanah and Anastatia T. Leigh. Report on file at the California Department of Transportation, Bishop.

Basgall, Mark E., and M. Giambastini
1995 Prehistoric Use of a Marginal Environment: Continuity and Change in Occupation of the Volcanic Tablelands, Mono and Inyo Counties, California. Center for Archaeological Research at Davis, Publication Number 12.

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