by Carl A. Bjork.
Originally published in Ancient American Magazine Issue #45
Southern California’s “Painted Rock” is among the relatively few surviving examples of ancient pictoglyphs created by the Chumash people before their extinction through contact with diseases contracted in the early 17th Century. Respected even by the rapacious Spaniards as “civilized Indians,” the Chumash were physically set apart from other Native Americans by their facial hair (most Indians were beardless) and occasionally fair complexions. They were also skilled mariners, and sailed tomols, or well-made boats somewhat resembling Viking ship-building practices, up and down the Pacific coast, even venturing as far as the off-shore islands of San Miguel and St. Nicholas.
The Painted Rock illustration seems to portray something more significant than a small tomol, however. It sports what appear to be cabins and a tent-like feature toward the stern (?). Does this rock art from an extinct people depict more sophisticated vessels among the Chumash than the Spanish observed? Or does it represent the boat of some overseas’ visitors from a distant civilization to southern California in the ancient past?
Photograph care of the author. For further information, visit http://home.comcast.net/~carlbjork/
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