Coso rock art is extraordinary for many reasons, but what first strikes the eye is the number and concentration of images. In an otherwise barren area only ten miles long by five to seven miles wide, thousands of individual carvings lie atop and beside one another, covering entire canyon walls and the surfaces of large outcroppings. The overall effect underscores the incredible longevity of the local cultures.
A closer look reveals another remarkable fact: about half the carvings depict bighorn sheep.
Once fairly common throughout the surrounding mountains, bighorn populations crashed shortly after the adoption of the bow and arrow, a probable casualty of climate-related stress and the efficiency of new hunting techniques. Obviously, these increasingly rare beasts left a durable impression in the minds of local peoples as that inscribed on the rock.
Bighorns are not the only frequent feature of Coso rock art. Also prevalent are anthropomorphic figures, some wildly dressed in elaborate patterns and strange headgear, while others seem to be hunting or dancing.
Sometimes entire panels are inscribed with elaborate geometric patterns. Often, variations on the patterns occur within circular "shields" or fringed "medicine bags." More rarely, bighorns are decorated with geometric shapes. more >>