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Wind Caves

Photographs of California Chumash pictographs.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

The Wind Caves ("Husahkiw" in Chumash) are located in the mountains above Santa Barbara, California, the approximate center of Chumash territory. The Chumash cultural sphere extended north to Estero Bay, south to Malibu Creek, west to the Channel Islands and east to the Carrizo Plain. The Santa Barbara area is dominated by the low Santa Ynez range trending east-west with the highest peaks around 4000 feet. Many of the slopes are steep, covered with chaparral and marine sandstone outcrops. Wind sculpted sandstone caves and overhangs did not lend themselves to petroglyphs, but were ideal places for the Chumash to make their pictographs.

Summer highs are in the 70 to low 80s, winter lows are seldom less than the mid 40s. Most of the Chumash lived in coastal areas. Rain fall here is 3-5 inches in the winter tapering to zero in summer months. Snow, even on the highest peaks is rare. Campbell Grant (1993) estimated this population to be between 10 - 20 thousand during the Mission Period of the 1770's. No estimate was made for the Inland Chumash population which probably consisted of numerous small bands. The mild weather conditions, abundant food from sea and land sources made living here more desirable than many other California locations.

Most of the rock art is found in the mountainous interior regions of the Chumash territory. The majority of sites are found in wind-blown caves and overhangs in sandstone formations. The paintings range from simple geometric symbols (e.g. circles, lines, cross-hatching), to complex and often bizarre anthropomorphic figures. There is much speculation regarding the purpose and meaning of the paintings, but one theory is that they are semi-abstract representations of supernatural beings painted by the shamans. The predominant color used in the paintings is red, but black, white, yellow and blue were also used.

Wind Caves

Chumash pictographs

 Overview of the Wind Caves which are actually a space beneath a wind scoured overhang.

Some pictographs show signs of continued scouring while others, more protected or newer look pristine.

Chumash zoomorph

Chumash rock art

Small representational figures are typical of Chumash pictographs.

The same photo D-stretched.

red pigment pictographs

circle pictographs

Some of the pigment from the lower  pictographs has worn away, and graffiti is evident. The image above the "Y"s appears 'fishlike'.

Different shades of the red pigment may indicate the images were made at different times or by different people.

faded Chumash picrographs Chumash rock art

Connected circles and small figures with  raised elbows and lower arms extending 90 from the elbow are common Chumash icons.

The same photo D-stretched shows
additional detail.

altabstract Chumash rock art black and red pictographs
This multi-legged depiction, with head appendages, and arms extending to the sides may have origins as a land or sea creature. Black pigment appears more fugitive than red, but is clearly visible in some pictographs.
pictograph spanish cross
Fading of the pigment and unidentifiable objects leaves many pictograph panels open to speculation. This image may represent the Spanish Cross, and if so, was likely made during the
Mission Period.
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