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Inscription Canyon rock art petroglyphs

Photographs of Desert rock art, California  Click on any photo to enlarge.

Inscription Canyon is situated on the north side of Black Mountain, about 42 miles northwest of Barstow, California.  The canyon runs southwest-northeast and is only several hundred yards long. There are some occasional springs in this area, and a stage route passed not far from here in the late 1800s. The winters are mild but the summers are Mojave Desert hot. Rain is uncommon, the vegetation is stunted and not in any abundance.

Most of the petroglyphs are located along the sun lit southeast facing cliff, although some are located on walls that receive little to no sunlight and these petroglyphs are covered with brilliant colored lichens. Many of the Great Basin curvilinear and rectilinear design petroglyphs in this canyon are attributed to the Shoshonean period, AD 1000 to Historic times; while other petroglyphs depicting atlatls (aka "throwing sticks" that predated the bow and arrow) are from much earlier archaic hunter - gatherer times.

Several different styles of bighorn sheep petroglyphs are seen here. The use of different depiction styles indicates   people of different cultures visited this canyon and a noticeable difference in repatinization of the petroglyphs indicated they did so over a long period of time. This area was utilized by Archaic people several thousand years ago, then by Numic speaking Paiute and Shoshone people, and historically by the Kawaiisu people. Next 11 photos.
 

Inscription Canyon pictographs at Inscription Canyon
Entrance to Inscription Canyon, facing southwest. Rock varnished basalt boulders on both sides. Pictographs are rare in Inscription Canyon. These two, one in black and one in black & red, may be the only pictographs at this site.
bighorn sheep petroglyphs anthropomorphs
Bighorn sheep depicted with some similarity to the bighorn petroglyphs in the Coso Range to the Northwest. Sometimes it is difficult to imagine what the prehistoric rock art maker was visualizing, this image may be a mask or a highly stylized anthropomorph.
click here to see petroglyph replicas of bighorn sheep and anthropomorphs 
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Mojave Desert Barstow petroglyphs petroglyph of bighorn sheep
Some of these petroglyphs were made by shaman while in a trance like state and have meaning known only to them. The red coloring around this bighorn sheep is mold residue from an attempted casting. The residue will remain for a long time.
bighorn sheep petroglyphs Great Basin rock art
Anthropomorph (human-like figure) center; two parallel chains consisting of  linked circles with dots and concentric circles may represent a ceremonial or spirit being. Rock art panel typical of the Black Canyon/Inscription Canyon area.
rock art bighorn sheep rock art petroglyphs
Ornate, stylized bighorn sheep with four 'people' on its back. Interesting petroglyph that is suggestive of an inverted 'medicine bag'.
geometric petroglyph panel Books about Rock Art 
A complex geometric panel is indicative of Shoshonean influence post AD 1000.  
 

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