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Coso Rock Art
coso rock artAbout this site

The Coso Rock Art District, a National Historic Landmark deep in the U.S. Navy's testing station at China Lake, contains one of America's most impressive petroglyphic and archeological complexes. The 20,000 images already documented surpass in number most other collections, and the archeological resources are remarkably undisturbed.

Coso rock art has become famous for its stylized representational symbolic system, a system that has intrigued—and baffled—archeologists and lay observers for decades.

Recent research at this California desert District has begun to illuminate the long history of the people here and the meanings they inscribed in stone. It also underscores the value of America's endangered cultural resources. explore >>



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Primary Sources

Gilreath, Amy J.
1997 Cultural Resources Inventory in Support of the Coso Rock Art District/Landmark Boundary Study, Vols. I and II. Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc. Submitted to Engineering Field Activity, West Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

Gilreath, Amy J.
1998 Coso Rock Art District National Historic Landmark Nomination. On file. National Park Service, National Center for Cultural Resources, National Historic Landmark Program, Washington, DC.

Whitley, David S.
2000 The Art of the Shaman: Rock Art of California. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.


Arnold, Caroline
1996 Stories in Stone: Rock Art Pictures by Early Americans. Clarion Books, New York.
Focuses on rock art found in California's Coso Mountains. Offers basic explanations of rock art terms and methods. Grades 4-7.

Dewey, Jennifer Owens
1996 Stories on Stone: Rock Art, Images from the Ancient Ones, Vol. 1. Little Brown, Boston.
A book on rock art for young readers. Ages 6-10.


Austin, Mary
1903 The Land of Little Rain. Illustrated by E. Boyd Smith. Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston.

Beckman, Tad
1996 Indians of the Great Basin. Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, California.

Bettinger, Robert L.
2002 Cultural, Human, and Historical Ecology in the Great Basin: Fifty Years of Ideas About Ten Thousand Years of Prehistory. In Advances in Historical Ecology, edited by William L. Balée. Columbia University Press, New York.

Bettinger, Robert L.
2002 Why Corn Never Came to California. Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Bureau of Land Management, California State Office
2000 Rock Art of Native California: A Guide to Rock Art Sites on Bureau of Land Management Lands in California: A Visitor's Guide. Sacramento, California.

Key, John W.
1979 The Owens Valley Indian War 1861-1865. Submitted to the Faculty of U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Carr, Suzanne
1995 Exquisitely Simple or Incredibly Complex: The Theory of Entoptic Phenomena. M.A. Dissertation, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Mojave Desert National Preserve
1998 Relationships of Native American Cultures to the Death Valley Area. Draft Environmental Impact Statement and General Management Plan. Mojave Desert National Preserve, National Park Service.

O'Brien, Karen and Robin White
1997 Petroglyph National Monument Teacher's Guide. Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, Tucson, Arizona.

Schaafsma, Polly
1992 Rock Art in New Mexico. Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Van Tilburg, Jo Anne (Editor)
1992 Ancient Images on Stone: Rock Art of the Californians. Rock Art Archive, Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles.

Whitley, David S.
1996 Guide to Rock Art Sites: Southern California and Southern Nevada. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana.

Whitley, David S. (Editor)
2001 Handbook of Rock Art Research. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, California.



Content Development
Matt Burns, Megan Crandall, Cheryl Coursey

Roll over individual images for photographer credits. Do not use images without permission.
The Bancroft Library's Online Archive of California, University of California, Berkeley
John Blaustein, John Blaustein Photography < www.johnblaustein.com >
Per Bothner and Nathan Williams
The Denver Public Library's Western History Collection
Jelmer W. Eerkens, Ph.D.
Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc.
Chick Hebert, Ph.D.
TOMOL Archive of Digital Images, University of California, Santa Cruz
United States Geological Survey

Background Photographs
* Coso landscape and Shoshone basket maker, The Bancroft Library's Online Archive of California, University of California, Berkeley
* Little Petroglyph Canyon, giant bighorn petroglyphs, and Coso petroglyph (this page), TOMOL Archive of Digital Images, University of California, Santa Cruz
* Recording archeological site, Recording rock art, and Sheep cult petroglyphs, Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc.
* Owens Valley tablelands petroglyphs, © Jelmer W. Eerkens, Ph.D.
* F-22, U.S. Navy
* Petroglyph National Monument, © Per Bothner and Nathan Williams

Barbara Little, S. Terry Childs, Teresa Moyer

Design, Imaging, Layout, and Programming
Matt Burns

Site Management
S. Terry Childs

Special Thanks
Erika Seibert (National Historic Landmarks Program); Russell Kaldenberg (U.S. Navy Archeologist); Bob Higgins (NPS Chief Geologist); Gretchen Ward (Petroglyph National Monument)

Additional Thanks
This site is produced and maintained in cooperation with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO).



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