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Dr. Whitley talks about Coso Rock Art

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff  Writer–     Spoke on September 17 to members of the Maturango Museum. The museum was treated to an excellent presentation by Archaeologist Dr. David S. Whitley. Dr. Whitley has had a lifelong passion for studying rock art with an emphasis on the ethnographic accounts that explain their meaning and significance to Native Americans. He earned his PhD in Archaeology from UCLA with the first-ever dissertation on rock art.

Dr. Whitley patiently walked his audience step-by-step through learning how to date the art, how to understand image symbolism, how Coso geology is conducive to supernatural spiritual journeys, and interpret familiar petroglyphs.

Several years ago, this writer was fortunate to take a few tours of Little Petroglyph Canyon. The dialogue at the time was “It is all a mystery.” Dr. Whitley has uncovered the mystery. And what is so exciting is the final piece just recently fell into place.

If you are familiar with the Coso petroglyphs, there are a lot of images of Bighorn Sheep. Bighorn Sheep are a creature that survived the Ice Age and were not hunted by prehistoric tribes. Even today, Bighorn Sheep predict rain. This is the information that recently pulled together the interpretations. When Dr. Whitley was in the Palm Springs area, he learned that Bighorn Sheep come down from the mountains when it’s going to rain because the growth is very temporary and they want to be there to eat it. Add this information to the years of research and it suggests that shamans came from all over to go into the supernatural world to get help from their spirit guides to bring rain.  The rock art is a part of that journey.

This is just a hint of the information we can learn from Dr. Whitley. The News Review is looking forward to talking with Dr. Whitley and having a story for you before the Petroglyph Festival on November 4 and 5.