Alignments and Significance of Site

by Clayton Peirce

The rock art that has been discussed in detail on adjoining web pages is particularly interesting because the site itself probably had a lot of significance to the Chemehueve people. There are a number of reasons why this site was chosen to make rock art at. These reasons will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

First of all, the site could have been of extreme importance to the Native Indians, because it marked the trail that leads to a spring. In the middle of the Mojave Desert, springs are very few and far between. I would venture to say that the spring that is one-quarter of a mile away from the rock art site is the only one within fifteen or more miles. The rock art site is at the Western edge of the Mopah mountain range, so if the site is approached from the North, west, or south, the site could indicate that the spring is to the East; just up the dry wash. Also, the site is very near to a meeting of two dry washes. One travels southward along the Mopah range, while the other comes down from the range and joins with the first. This could have been of significance to the Native Indians for whatever reason.

To me, the most exciting thing about this site is the number of alignments with some of the surrounding peaks. The site is situated so an observer can see a prominent butte almost directly south, a great panoramic view of a mountain range to the West, a few peaks to the North, and some large basaltic lava plugs to the East. In the desert, where one can see many panoramic views, you might not think this site to be all that important. That is, unless you had brought a compass!

Interestingly, there are four prominent peaks in the horizon that are almost all situated 90 degrees apart from the others. With these four markers on the horizon, a person could have a virtual coordinate system while at the rock art site. While looking to the western horizon, the tallest peak (see the middle of picture 2)
in view was measured to be 25 degrees west of south. When facing the other way, there is another knob (see picture 7) that pokes out of the otherwise mundane skyline. This knob was found to be situated exactly 25 degrees east of north. If one gazes eastward, the big peak (see picture 10) that is relatively close to you, and that takes up a lot of your field of vision is at approximately 26 degrees south of east. And, wouldnít you know, at about 20 degrees north of west, there is another prominent knob (see the left side of picture 5) that juts out of the horizon. You notice that the measurements arenít exactly 90 degrees apart from each other, but they could be closer than what is given here, due to human error in using the compass.

In addition to the above alignments, there are also three other prominent features that seem to have an alignment. There is a small knob (see left of picture 4) on the western horizon that is 10 degrees south of west. Opposite that, there is an old basaltic lava plug (see to the left of picture 9) at about 10 degrees north of east. If this werenít enough, the large butte (see picture 12) mentioned before, just happens to be 10 east of south at the rock art site. For reference, the small peak that is in the foreground of picture 1 is exactly due south.

At the site, a rock with two distinct holes (see picture 13) was found. After a short discussion with Professor Hazlett, we determined that the holes were definitely man made, and they could have been carved out by the Chemehueve. As we started poking in the holes with our pens to clean them out, it stuck us that these holes could have been used for a sunstick ceremony during the winter or summer solstice. We took an azimuth reading of the angle of the largest hole and found it to be 76 degrees south of east. We hypothesized, since the Chumash people definitely had used sunsticks for solstice use and the Pueblo people had also celebrated the winter solstice, that the Chemehueve could have used this hole for a similar reason. Unfortunately, after further analysis, we determined that the winter solstice for that site would be at 61.250695 degrees south of east. Actually, a sunstick could have been put into that hole and adjusted to the correct angle, regardless of the tilt of the hole. Realistically, however, the holes were probably used for other purposes. The two holes pointed to six degrees north of east, but no significance of this angle was found.

All told, the Native Indians obviously found the site significant. Otherwise no rock art would have been created there. The question at hand is: Just how important was it to them? Using the above evidence, I hypothesize that the site was truly important to the Indians because of the nearby spring. Only that particular wash by the rock art would lead to probably the only spring in a fifteen mile radius. The site was also highly regarded because of the picturesque panoramic view obtainable from there. The alignments of the distant peaks were surely secondary to the primary use of marking the spring, but Iím sure it didnít go unnoticed by the keen Chemehueve. Finally, the use of the site for solstice ceremonies is doubtful due to the remote area. Also, solstice ceremonies would have likely produced more rock art in the area, due to the greater number of people present. As said before, the site is surely significant, whatever the reason, and more research should be done to study the site in more detail. (Maybe next year. . .)