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Granite Mountains

Photographs of Mojave Desert petroglyphs & pictographs.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

Millions of years ago, in what is now eastern San Bernardino county, magma was generated by the collision of the Pacific and the North American tectonic plates. The magma didn't quite reach the surface and cooled underground to form granite that was pushed up by later tectonic forces that lifted the entire region. As the mountains rose, weathering and erosion began to break them down into the stark white unusually shaped mountains seen today along I-40.

As bleak and foreboding as these mountains appear at a distance, quite the opposite becomes true as one draws nearer. These mountains stand at the convergence of the Mojave, Sonoran and Great Basin Deserts and the habitats range from creosote plains to cactus and Joshua tree scrublands to  pinyon-juniper woodlands at higher elevations. Approximately 50 intermittent and permanent springs service a wide variety of plant and animal life. Summer highs are in the 90s and winter lows drop into the 20s. Annual precipitation is 9-10". Archaic hunter-gatherer groups and later Mohave and Chemehuevi people utilized the plant and animal resources of these mountains.

Granite Mountains, California

Granite Mountains rock art

Southern margin of the Granite Mountains.

Several of the numerous rock shelters and overhangs contain rock art.

There are petroglyphs here, but most of the rock art are pictographs placed in alcoves, under ledges and in caves formed by the granite. (per Christensen, Dickey and Lee; 2002) "Most of the petroglyphs are linear, circular or a combination of both, only 7% are representational and most of them are anthropomorphic. Pictographs are about 70% linear, 22% circular and 5% a combination of both. Only 3% are representational and all of them are anthropomorphic. To date, no pictographs of quadrupeds have been found. shades of red is by far the most common color followed by a few in black may be found, and rarely, white. The pigment appears to have been applied by fingers, although some thin black lines may have been applied by a stick."

"On the basis of superimposition... there seems to be three chronological episodes of rock art production. The oldest style is Great basin abstract and includes pecked and painted images. This probably correlates to the pre Numic populations. " Whitley 2004:44 suggests they may be of extensive antiquity. "For unknown reasons these earlier motifs are reworked and seemingly copied, and the majority of Granite Mountain rock art falls into this category. The next oldest rock art is of the Grapevine Style," which is common along the Colorado River and also found along trade routes and in inland territories occupied by the Mohave people. Grapevine Style is characterized by often rectangular, double outlined, balanced symmetrical geometric figures, and versions of a capitol 'I' design. "The most recent appearing rock art, black sketched pictographs, may be of Chemehuevi origin who displaced the Mohaves in this area at about AD 1500."

ref: Christensen, Dickey and Lee: The Granite Mountain Archaeological Survey; 2002

petroglyphs Mojave Desert

pictographs Great Basin Abstract

The opening of this petroglyph cave was sealed by early homesteaders to make a storage room.

Some ceilings contain large numbers of pictographs.

Western Archaic Tradition

bi-chrome pictographs

Occasionally pigment is incorporated into petroglyph designs.

Red, black and white are the most common pictograph pigments used in this area.

Some exposed pictographs are faint and
are easily overlooked.

The same pictograph D-Stretched.

Granite Mountain petroglyphs pictographs Great Basin Abstract, bichrome
The white granite rock does not lend itself to petroglyphs, unless rock varnish is present. Red and white Great Basin Abstract pictographs pictographs.
petroglyphs hunter gatherer pictographs and grafitti
Most images are nonrepresentational, although occasional anthropomorphs can be found. Quadrupeds are rare in petroglyphs and absent in pictographs. Graffiti from the 1920's is now part of the archaeological record.
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