Thursday, August 22, 2019

"Hidden Cave" Pictographs

Just out of the blue, I had this really nice individual contact me by email last week to tell me he likes my blog. He specifically mentioned my posts about rock art sites. Turns out, he is super knowledgeable about rock art sites in Joshua Tree and shared a couple locations with me. That's a big deal. Rock art sites are closely guarded secrets because there are so many knuckleheads out there that will deface them. So it made me feel good that this individual trusted me enough to share locations.

So earlier this week I went to visit one of the spots he shared with me. The "Hidden Cave" pictographs (also called "Indian Cave" pictographs) is one of the best examples of well preserved pictographs I've seen. The site has been described as "pristine", "amazing", and an "irreplaceable and sacred place". It's a small, cramped space under a huge rock formation, so a real challenge to photograph. You can just barely sit up once inside, and most of the photography is done while laying on your side or back. "Hidden" is a good description for the cave, because even if you can find it, people have taken great pains to hide the entrance by building a rock wall. 
The rock wall has to be taken down before you can crawl into the cave. To give you a sense of scale, that large boulder (bottom center) is too big and heavy to lift. I could only roll it out of place. I'm getting too old for this!

As you crawl into this hidden cave, and your eyes adjust to the darkness... hang on to your hat because you will be amazed!!
After removing the rocks and crawling into the cave, this is what you see looking back toward the entrance. Because the cave is not exposed to the elements, the pictographs are in excellent shape. Although the cave is small, it is chock-full of pictographs. There are so many it's difficult to document them all.

I knew in advance that the cave would be cramped and dark, so I brought a wide angle lens, a fisheye lens, and a couple small LED light panels. Also, a word about the photos. I used a program called DStretch to enhance the pictographs, and then blended those results with the original image in Photoshop. That way the images don't look so distorted and the pictographs stand out.
Here comes the sun!

I'm glad I brought my fisheye lens. Although the images have the fisheye distortion, it gives you a sense of the inside of the cave and the myriad petroglyphs on the walls and ceiling. As you can see, they are almost all done in red pigment. It appears there may be a couple done with black pigment. One site said they thought this cave was likely used for female puberty rituals, both because of the red pigment used as well as the shapes of the pictographs themselves. But who knows. That's one of the interesting things about rock art... nobody seems to know what the symbols mean, but there are plenty of theories!

Below is a random sampling of some of the pictos. Wouldn't it be cool to know their significance!? The variety is amazing.










The photo below is the only one from the surrounding area I'll be sharing. 
Directly adjacent to Hidden Cave pictographs is this large boulder. See all the white chalk? Looks like rock climbers visit here frequently. Wouldn't they be surprised if they could see inside the cave only a few yards away!

So after nearly 2 hours of crawling around on the dirt floor of a cramped and hot cave, laying on my back and side getting photos, sweating like crazy (remember it's August in Joshua Tree!), it's time to crawl out from under my rock and re-build the stone wall that keeps Hidden Cave Pictographs so well hidden. After a good 20 minutes, the rock wall is rebuilt and it's even stronger than when I found it. I take pride in my work, stand up (slowly and stiffly... did I mention I'm getting too old for this??) and pack away all my camera gear. As I put on my backpack and get ready to leave, I'm thinking... where's my hat and sunglasses?? Yup, you guessed it... THEY'RE IN THE CAVE!!!

I'm exhausted, and it crosses my mind to perhaps just leave them inside. But no, I need them, so I begin tearing apart my big beautiful rock wall, rock by rock, squeeze back into the cave, grab my hat and sunglasses, squeeze back out, and rebuild my rock wall for a second time! Now I'm even more exhausted, and kicking myself for being so forgetful.

I'll leave you with a couple Joshua Tree sky shots from this outing. As the sun sets behind the desert rocks, the Joshua trees slowly turn to silhouettes!


Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

53 comments:

  1. Amazing, what a place to visit. It looks like someone used wax crayon on the walls but I know that is not the case. The last photos of the Joshua Trees are oustanding

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well worth protecting! I admit, I got a laugh about your hat and sunglasses!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yikes! I feel claustrophobic just reading about this.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, that's very nice with the blogging community. I too get a lot of tips from fellow bloggers about the places I go to.

    Worth a Thousand Words

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wonderful that the blogging community shares secret treasured spots to take photographs of and trust them to keep them a secret. Thank you for being an honorable person.

    ReplyDelete
  6. How wonderful someone shared with you. That is a very special place. Your last two photos are beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Huge thanks for sharing what we could not otherwise see! Very important just to view them I'd say. Hawaiian petroglyphs were carved into the rock mostly.. and those are beloved images to us: paddler, runner,..It feeds something deep within. Sounds like something I'd do: building a wall twice! Bless you. Keep safe. Appreciate how much we appreciate your sharing!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow, your photos are amazing! Is there any idea what tribe of people drew them? They look almost new, they are in such good condition. Your photos of the Joshua tree silhouettes are hauntingly beautiful. I can't believe you went BACK In to get your things! You must be really young.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Fantastic pictographs and I had to laugh (sorry) about the hat and sunglasses. It's something I would have done.

    ReplyDelete
  10. After reading your profile, I see you are retired. You must be in excellent shape! Your car header is so unusual! It is like car art.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow, great photos. I'm claustrophobic so I doubt I could go in there. I'm glad you shared with us.

    ReplyDelete
  12. You certainly get full marks for perseverance and persistence. I am glad that a rattler hadn't decided to take up residence in the cave.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I sense your excitement to have the opportunity to experience this cave and the pictographs. Happy for you. And I love the Joshua Tree photos.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Incredible photos you made there. I am speechless.
    It's a testament to your integrity and discretion that you were trusted with such a secret location. I love that a rock wall has been built to protect it. I felt for you having to dismantle and rebuild again but there was nothing else to do.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love it. Such an amazing story. Just rememberiong the idiocy of some at special sites I can understand the security,

    Good stuff the photos are good.
    Love it. and your approach to the idea. Not sure I could rear down and rebuild the wall. I am thinking I may have ran across one of these, but I will never go back to check. We only hike in the desert for one winter.
    Sherry & jack

    ReplyDelete
  16. Whoa! Now that´s History. What kinda people did this? And why? Very interesting. Thank You so much for sharing. Taken with a non-GPS camera, I presume. Don´t want everybody to know where this is.

    ReplyDelete
  17. What a wonderful display of pictographs! I love your sky shots too.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Awesome post! Wow, sooo many images - you hit the jackpot. Love that first art rock you showed.Do you know what those circles with the line running through it means? I remember Patrick also used D-stretch! Haven't heard from him for a while - does he still blog?
    Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jesh. Yes, jackpot!! I really don't know what those bisected circles are all about. They really catch your eye when you enter the cave, and super interesting. I was just talking to Pat this morning about this site. He's doing great... just put blogging on the back burner for a while.

      Delete
  19. Amazing discovery!
    You must have been quite happy...

    ReplyDelete
  20. Once again a wonderful adventure, documented by wonderful pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  21. wow amazing place. Great post and pics.

    ReplyDelete
  22. wow, amazing story and a great find. I do not going into small closed in places. I am glad you went and can share it all with us. The pictographs are cool. I also love the Joshua Tree and sky shots. Awesome post and photos. Enjoy your day, wishing you a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Daumen hoch für den interessanten Beitrag.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Always love your photography.

    This post has my mind hundreds of years in the past, imagining the lives of the earlier dwellers there 'bouts. No Georges or Rufuses back in those days. Standing Crow, Sitting Eagle. Silver Feather. Imagine four generations sitting about the nightly fire, family lore being shared, which has faltered over the generations like the day's sun.

    Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  25. What a treasure find for you and thanks for sharing these wonderful photos ~ Divine! ~ Glad you got your hat and sunglasses and hope you are cool and rested now ~ thanks again ~ ^_^

    Happy Day to You,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Truly impressive and you captured it all well.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Wow. So beautifully preserved and clear. I’ve never seen such bright red. Do you know what the red pigment is from? Thanks so much for sharing, and i hope you have worked out all the kinks in your neck and back!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Cynthia. I've often wondered about the pigment source. Standard references talk about using red clay soil high in iron oxide (I've not seen much of that in the area), certain plant roots, and the bark of certain trees (no trees with red bark that I know of in Joshua Tree, although perhaps the manzanita bush?). It's a mystery!

      Delete
  28. It's nice to be entrusted with secrets. This hidden petroglyph gave is truly a treasure. I hope that few people find it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I was amazed by the colour of the pictographs. They look as though they were done yesterday.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I've been reading you for perhaps a couple of years and this is, without doubt, the post that awed me the most. I was oohing and aahing out loud. I wish I knew what the symbols meant. You put so much effort and love into this visit. And the two tree captures at the end were stunning. I hope no one finds this hidden spot. May your wall stand strong (and your hat and sunglasses have more adventures with you.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, thank you Alana. So very kind! My hat and sunglasses will definitely live to enjoy more adventures!

      Delete
  31. ...first off, that truck on the header is killer! An amazing work with those petroglyphs. I may look like a caveman, but you wouldn't get me in that cave.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Wow...wow wow wow! Any idea how old they are?

    ReplyDelete
  33. Some of those images look like they were counting. The rhythms of the patterns. I'm sure they were amazing to see.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Very cool! Thanks for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  35. I'm glad the rock climbers don't know about the cave SPP, you never know what they might do. Oh my gosh I can just imagine how you felt on realising you had walled in your hat and sunglasses 😱 The pictograms are fascinating, would be incredible if someone could decipher them. Another exciting adventure, merci beaucoup ✨

    ReplyDelete
  36. The pictographs are just so beautiful. I wonder how old they are and yes I, too wonder what they mean. Excellent work---and I know it was work.
    The sunset/sky pics are gorgeous
    MB

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, MB. I know there are people that have some knowledge of pictograph and petroglyph age, and even the likely tribes responsible for making them. I'm still very much at the novice level!

      Delete
  37. wow those paintings are amazing, such history in your area.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Beautiful images, the painting are tremendous.

    ReplyDelete
  39. interesting rock art,i saw once at Niah caves in Borneo

    ReplyDelete
  40. What a cool place! The last photo is my favorite. I love the bluish purple melting into the sunset

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thank you for sharing the beautiful place with us. Interesting markings inside the cave. The last 3 photos are my favourites.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Nice to know that there are still people out there that are willing to put their faith in others! You are right, I am amazed. So well preserved, so bright. It is a shame their meaning has been lost, but I suppose it's just as fun to make up our own stories! Like everyone else, I had to laugh about the hat and sunglasses ...

    ReplyDelete
  43. Beyond amazed and grateful that you shared ...obviously I wouldn’t be able to ever see these even if you were able to give me a detailed map. Such a cause for wonder... I’ve never seen any pic or petroglyphs without first having read others’ interpretations first and always wonder what I would have thought. I think for these I would have come up with the same one that one web site you mention cited. But you never know, that is the great mystery. I’m glad explorers like you are keeping these treasures hidden from the idiots of the world (whether it takes one try or two). Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Another wonderful post that fills the imagination. I'm intrigued by the brightness of the drawing medium, such a beautifully strong bright red.

    ReplyDelete