Burro Flats Painted Cave
Burro Flats Painted Cave
Trigrams near cave entrance in Burro Flats
|Location||Simi Hills, Ventura County, California, USA|
|Nearest city||Bell Canyon, California|
|Architectural style||Pictograph Rock art|
|Governing body||Boeing-Rocketdyne (private)|
|NRHP Reference #||76000539|
|Added to NRHP||May 05, 1976|
Burro Flats Painted Cave is in the Burro Flats area of the Simi Hills, located between the Simi Valley, and West Hills and Bell Canyon, in Ventura County of Southern California, United States. It is a Cave containing Chumash Native American pictographs. The cave is near the historic Chumash settlement of Hu'wam, along upper Bell Creek, and Tongva/Fernandeño settlement Jucjauynga The cave is located in the southwestern corner of Area II of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory on private land owned by Boeing, formerly operated by Rocketdyne for testing rocket engines and nuclear research. The Burro Flats Painted Cave is not accessible to the public. Panorama of Burro Flats cave art here
Among the pictographs at Burro Flats are two human stick figures wearing headdresses with lines radiating from the heads. There are also stick-figure animals with four fingers, a circle with a star inside, a plant resembling a cornstalk, and more abstract groupings of circles and trigrams. The cave is a small, hollowed-out portion of a long, low rock set into a grassy slope. The Burro Flats pictographs have been termed "the best preserved Indian pictograph in Southern California." Archaeologists estimate the drawings are several hundred years old. There is a replica of the pictographs at the Southwest Museum in Highland Park, Los Angeles.
In 1971, the Los Angeles Times reported that some have suggested "that the cave's drawings were made by Indian maidens who slept here and drew what they saw in their dreams, perhaps as part of puberty rites." Others have suggested that it was used as an astronomical observatory and to celebrate the winter solstice. The Chumash celebrated the "return of the sun" as their civilization depended on the sun for life. Anthropologist Al Knight has described the importance of the winter solstice to the local Chumash as follows: "The entire local Native American Indian religious ritual cycle is centered on the moment of winter solstice. It's like rolling together our Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's celebration in one event." Another theory is that the drawings were a cooperative effort between the Chumash and Gabrielino tribes in the 15th century to celebrate the solstice and friendship between the two tribes. One anthropology professor has opined that the Burro Flats pictographs were painted between 500 A.D. and the arrival of the Spanish settlers. He noted, "They've had very little vandalism, one of the least molested sites I know of."
The cave is located near the historic Chumash settlement of Hu'wam, along upper Bell Creek, and Fernandeño settlement Jucjauynga. In 1971, Fernandeño Indians asked Rocketdyne to safeguard the cave drawings. At the time, Fernandeño tribal leader Rudy Ortega, Sr. said, "We really know very little of our heritage. ... The paintings are one of the few physical links to our heritage. We hope one day to interpret their stories for our people."
Tribal leaders expressed concern about damage that could result from vandals or weather and asked Rocketdyne to enclose the drawings in glass. Rocketdyne officials fenced off the area, which was still being used to test rocket engines, and tribal leaders next petitioned to have the site declared a state or national historic monument. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. In 1978, the pictographs were the subject of the documentary film, "Cave Paintings of the Chumash Indians." The Santa Susana Field Laboratory is now closed and undergoing a complex toxic-radionuclide pollution analysis for a subsequent cleanup. Historical Resource studies and protection are part of the process. The land is to become a park when the cleanup is done.
Rocketdyne occasionally allowed Chumash descendants to visit the site. In 1995, a Chumash holy man, Mati Waiya of Newbury Park, visited the site along with a group that included a Los Angeles Times reporter. Waiya performed a ceremony involving eagle feathers, dried tobacco leaves, shaking a wooden rattle in front of the paintings, and chanting. At the time, the Chumash tribe renewed its request for Rocketdyne to return the site back to the tribe or grant access to the state parks department for better security and public access. Since the passing over of the complex from Rocketdyne to Boeing, access to site, at least for tribe members, has become ameliorated.
In order to guard the pictographs, the exact location of the cave is kept secret, its location not marked even on Boeing company maps. Archeologists are not allowed to view it without special permission. After concerns were raised again in the 1990s about the security of the cave paintings, Rocketdyne officials declined to discuss its specific security and surveillance measures, but noted that the location was restricted to prevent trespassers and vandals. A company official noted, "Those are probably the most protected of any pictographs in Southern California, and the fact they're the only ones that haven't been desecrated I think is proof of that."
- Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park, California
- History of the San Fernando Valley to 1915
- List of Registered Historic Places in Ventura County, California
- Painted Rock (San Luis Obispo County, California)
- Rock art of the Chumash people
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- 'Old Burro Flats Photos' access date: 5/15/2010.
- Kenneth Lubas (1971-01-31). "Indians Trying To Safeguard Cave Paintings of Ancestors: Mission Tribe Will Ask Rocketdyne To Enclose Historic Works in Glass for Protection Against Any Vandalism". Los Angeles Times.
- Kay Hwangbo (1995-03-26). "Stone Sacred Native Americans Get Rare Look at Cave Painting on Rocketdyne Site". Los Angeles Times (Valley Edition).
- "Tribe Opens Petition Drive for Monument". Los Angeles Times. 1971-02-18.
- Ira Gribin (1981-07-12). "Simi Valley: Chumash Indians among settlers". Los Angeles Times.
- Edward M. Yoon (1997-12-13). "Chatsworth; Group to Discuss Winter Solstice". Los Angeles Times (Valley Edition).
- Kermit Pattison (1995-07-21). "Rocketdyne Cuts Could Affect Chumash Caves". Daily News (Los Angeles).
- "Film on Indian Cave Paintings". Los Angeles Times. 1978-11-12.
- 1995 Slides of Burro Flats by Clive Ruggles, University of Leicester U.K.
- Description in Echoes of the Ancient Skies, p. 129, at Google Books