OF THE ANZA-BORREGO
first inhabitants of the Anza-Borrego region are lost to us
in the mists of time which separate our own era from theirs.
There is debate on when the oldest inhabitants of the region
occupied the lands east of the Peninsular Ranges of Southern
California. Some sources maintain, based on tools found in
the desert, that there were people in the region 12,000 years
ago at the height of the last ice age. The dating of these
tools is not widely accepted, however, and the agreed upon
age of this ancient civilization is between 5,000 and 8,000
years. These were nomads who had no actual home but who gathered
plants and pursued large game animals, fish and waterfowl.
These people left hardly any traces of their passing through
6,000 years ago, however, the record is more complete. There
is a rock shelter within the boundaries of the park that provides
distinct evidence for this date, and is considered to be the
earliest, firmly dated site in the park. At
this site are approximately 6,000 years of history contained
within uninterrupted layer after layer of evidence of occupation,
discovered in 1958 by Professor William J. Wallace of the
University of Southern California. The most recent occupation
phase unearthed by Professor Wallace dated from about 1,000
years ago and continued into historic time, meaning 1774 in
this region, which is when Juan Bautista de Anza led his expedition
through the desert on his way to the California coast from
Tubac, Arizona. On his arrival at the coast, he would found
the settlement of Yerba Buena, now known as San Francisco.
In Coyote Canyon in the northern portion of Anza-Borrego State
Park, there is a pictograph of a man on horseback and a man
carrying a cross which presumably dates to Anza's expedition
of that year (Knaak, 38).
primary tribes make up the recent pre-historic and historic
inhabitants of the Anza-Borrego region. These were the Cahuilla
to the north
and east, the Northern Diegueño to the west and theKumeyaay
to the south. The Cahuilla are a Shoshonean tribe with relations
to tribes throughout the Great Basin region west of the Rockies.
The Kumeyaay are a tribe which inhabited the Peninsular region
as far east as the Imperial Valley, south into Mexico and
west to San Diego Bay, (Present day nations are used for ease
of geographical identification). The Northern Diegueño's lands
stretched from the northern San Diego County coast to the
desert lands east of the mountains. It is interesting and
telling that the eastern boundaries of the Kumeyaay and Northern
Diegueños and the southwestern border of the Cahuilla met
at a point not far from Vallecito in the central portion of
the present day Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. (See the map
and pictographs are representational art left behind by these
original inhabitants of Anza-Borrego and are more plentiful
here than in most other regions of North America. Petroglyphs
are forms picked directly into the dark stain of desert varnish
which coats the rocks of the desert. When picked through,
the light salt and pepper color of the underlying, fresh granite
is exposed, thus resulting in a lasting image. Pictographs,
on the other hand are made by applying paint to the rock surface.
In his book The Forgotten Artist, Manfred Knaak describes
the manufacture of this paint:
red paint, the artist used hematite or red iron oxide and
the oil of roasted wild cucumber kernels. The cucumber seeds
were ground together with the mineral in a small mortar, with
pitch from spruce or pine trees as the binding agent. To make
black paint, wild cucumber seeds were roasted and charred
on a piece of burning oak bark, then ground and mixed manganese
oxide or charcoal. Yellow paint was made from yellow ochre
or limonite, and white came from deposits of gypsum and white
ash…"(Knaak 37, see
of this rock art is always a matter of conjecture, because
we have no firm means of translating it. One thing that is
certain is that the art revolves around how these original
people interpreted their world and their lives. The art no
doubt came into play in initiation ceremonies, fertility and
marriage ceremonies, astronomical and/or astrological observations,
visions and dreams and as historical records. In his
Guide to Rock Art Symbols of the Southwest, Alex Patterson
gives possible translations of many types of symbols based
on Anthropologic texts and other types of research work.
Part of the reason why we are so utterly unable to grasp the
meaning of this art is that with the colonization of the Indians
in the mid 1700's, the family structure was uprooted and traditions
were broken. European diseases had wreaked havoc on native
populations, and so there was an understandable reticence
on the part of the Indians to share their cosmology. At the
same time, there was a reticence on the part of Europeans
to acquire knowledge of the Indian's culture, which was considered
at the time to be backward and unremarkable.
ART OF THE ANZA-BORREGO
Many of these pictures were
taken by Don Gennero. These and many others can be seen
on his web site.
Compare this rock panel from near Cataviña, Baja
California, with those from Indian Hill in Anza-Borrego
to the right.
Shaman's Cave, Indian Hill, Southern Anza-Borrego.
Both of these panels are believed to have been
painted by Kumeyaay artists.
pictograph from inside the Shaman's Cave, a small
hollow in a large granite mountain, Southern Anza-Borrego.
Believed to have been associated with female fertility
rituals, this large yoni is found near the
Shaman's Cave, pictured above.
Rock Shelter, Carrizo Gorge region, southern Anza-Borrego
more information on the three major tribes of the Anza-Borrego
region, use the following links:
article from the San Diego Union Tribune regarding local rock
art, December 24, 2000;
Rock Art Reveals
Desert's Mystery, by Ray Patterson
Constantain has a VERY complete listing of all tribes
on his web site. Be prepared.
more information on the Kumeyaay Tribe specifically,
don't miss these sites:
State Park (Select "History")