Chumash Indian Paintings

Here's another cool picture from Santa Barbara.

What the heck is that? you might ask. This was created by the earlier residents of Santa Barbara -- the Chumash Indians. It's inside the Painted Cave, a sandstone cave, in the mountains just north of Santa Barbara and is the best preserved of Californian Indian Paintings accessible to the public. It is preserved by an iron gate blocking the cave entrance, but one time I was up there and some big shot from the Archeological Society happened to be up there with the gate unlocked and he let me in and talked about it. The images are painted (as opposed to pecked into the stone as in some California caves). They are multicolor (red, black, white) and up to 6 colors may be used. The paintings do not occur in villages but in the mountains, especially in remote, inaccessible spots. It is believed they are the creation of shamans (the equivalent of priests) and served religious/ceremonial purposes. The paintings often include divided circles, human, and animal figures. The circles have many variations, including, spokes, cogs, legs, etc. The large circle in the upper right of this picture is 18 inches in diameter. The paintings are abstract and not photographic like many cave paintings found in Europe. Features of many different animals are often combined into one figure, and the circular figures are often identified as the sun, however, the meaning of these symbols and supernatural figures remains unclear. Similar paintings also exist in caves on the coastal islands and in the central California valleys.

The Chumash Indians were one of the three largest tribes in California. They occupied the region of California from Malibu to San Luis Obispo. In fact, Malibu is a Chumash word. The Chumash were known for building distinctive plank canoes large enough to hold typically 12 people, and they built large oval-doomed plank houses holding 4-5 families each. These always included one door on the east side and one on the west. Beds were built up high and reed mats served as mattresses. Indian children's beds were beneath these. But life was not all relaxed and comfortable. Men did not sleep in houses at night but brought bow and arrow and congregated in groups in caves since they hoped to avoid being surprised in bed by enemies and instead would watch, spy, set traps, or roam and surprise others. The Chumash have also been known to fashion fish hooks from seashells for fishing, catch sardines in baskets. They are also known for cutting, cooking, and eating a cactus called the century plant (mescali); capturing bear cubs, rasising them, and eating them when ready and playing musical instruments: drums, flute, cocoon rattle, etc. Now, they have a casino!