About a month ago, my partner, Marcy and I paid a visit to the Chumash Painted Cave in the hills above Santa Barbara. The road up into the hills from Route 154 is narrow and has lots of sharp turns so we were happy to be in a relatively small car. We used google maps to bring us there, but unfortunately the google maps location was a little off and ended up bringing us to a private residence. Backtracking slightly we found the correct location without too much trouble. There is a small turnout on the side of the road, big enough to hold two or three cars.
A series of stone steps has been created, leading up from the road to the cave entrance. Being so close to the road, it’s pretty accessible for anyone capable of climbing a short flight of stairs. The rock around and above the entrance has been eroded in a very interesting way creating some very cool textures and patterns, giving a kind of fairy-land appearance.
The entrance is covered by a locked gate due to past incidents of vandalism. There are two “holes” cut into the gate to allow a better view of the pictographs (paintings on rock).
The paintings are thought to be somewhere between several hundred and a thousand years old. According to Wikipedia, the paint was made from a mixture of mineralized soil, stone mortar, and some kind of liquid binder like blood or oil from animals or mashed seeds. The addition of an oil binder helped to make the paint permanent and waterproof. Orange and red paint contained hematite or iron oxide, while yellow came from limonite, blue and green from copper or serpentine, white from kaolin clays or gypsum, and black from manganese or charcoal.
No one is sure what the pictographs represent, but it has been suggested that images relate to astronomy and religion. The Chumash oral history says that the paintings were done by alchuklash (shamans or medicine men) based on visions they had duing hallucinogenic trances brought on by potent native tobacco or jimsonweed. The interpretive sign suggests that the black circle may represent a solar eclipse which occurred in 1677 AD.