A Visit to La Cueva Pintada

dsc00996

The army hasn’t allowed the public to visit La Cueva Pintada (on Fort Hunter Liggett) in something like 10 years, so when the San Antonio Valley Historical Association succeeded in navigating the bureaucratic maze and getting permission for a public tour a lot of people jumped at the opportunity. A lot more people than the Historical Association had been counting on. They’d told the army they’d be bringing about 20 people – but closer to 150 of us showed up. This initially caused a lot of consternation and high blood pressure among our hosts, but everyone, we’re glad to say, was eventually allowed to proceed to the cave. The guys on the right are taking pictures of a Mariposa Lily.

dsc00964

Here’s the Mariposa Lily (Calochortus sp.)

dsc00961

Walking to the cave

dsc00994

The cave entrance complete with chain link fence and concertina wire (this is the army, after all).

dsc00988

The walls are absolutely covered with the prehistoric art that gives the cave its name.

dsc00991

A lot of people have tried to decipher the meaning of these images, but we suspect their guesses reveal more about themselves than about the people who did the painting.

dsc00977

Deeper in the cave the walls are more fire-blackened and the art sometimes better preserved.

dsc00978

On some parts of the wall the images overlap one another to the point that it’s hard to tell what’s what. This woman has been hired to help demystify the situation by doing careful sketches of individual images. One (quite possibly apochrophal) story we’ve heard is that the paintings in this cave escaped destruction during the taliban mission era, due to the presence of this cross.

dsc00984

There’s definitely enough to keep her busy for awhile …

dsc00985

Interesting how different this art is …

img114

From the famous images in the caves near Tassajara.

dsc00993

View of Cone Peak from the cave entrance.

dsc00995

A close-up of the Sticky Monkey-Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus) growing by the gate.

Advertisements

6 Responses to A Visit to La Cueva Pintada

  1. bigsurkate says:

    Oh, wow!! What an opportunity! Thanks for preserving it and sharing it with us.

    The Mariposa Lily is the Calochortus venustus, I believe.

  2. Anybody know if a reliable date for these pictographs has been established?

  3. Daniel McCarthy says:

    The pictographs have not been dated directly or indirectly. However, there are several ages reflected. It is likely that the production of the paintings took place over the last 1,000 years.

  4. 570 says:

    Taliban?
    You really are an idiot…
    Would be interesting to watch what the actual Taliban would do to someone like you

  5. xasauan says:

    You’re right. We should never have implied an equivalence between the Taliban and the mission fathers. While both were inspired by religion to establish murderous regimes, violently subjugate women, and destroy priceless cultural treasures, the Taliban have never stooped to the level of committing genocide. We apologize.

  6. I first visited these caves when I was 5 or 6 years old, before I knew there were disciplines called archaeology and anthropology. Back then (in the early/mid-1960s) you could drive very close to the caves. We spent an afternoon exploring the caves, touching the paintings and wondering about the people who made them.

    I have a vague memory of driving to the top of Pine Canyon Road and cutting through Ft. Hunter Liggett. For the drive home, we continued on to Mission San Antonio de Padua and then home via Jolon Rd. We did not stop at the mission; my fist visit to the mission would have to wait until I was 9 years old, in the 4th grade, when we were bussed to the mission and given a docent-lead tour.

    I next saw the caves sometime in the 1970s, after the fence had been put up.

    It is so sad that there is no longer access to this important piece of local history, but of course people would screw things up by defacing the paintings and leaving their own lame-ass mark. Even though over a half-century has passed, I still remember the otherworldly energy of the place, the serenity, and the unspoiled beauty of it all.

    I would love to be included in the next tour.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: