The Rock Art Engravings of the Coso Range

Competing Models of Coso Rock Art

Page 3 / 17

There are two prominent explanations of Coso rock art. Both agree that the drawings functioned in a magico-religious context. Grant et al. (1968) argue that the depictions were associated with hunting magic and a sheep cult, while Whitley (1994a, 1994b) suggests they were made by individual shamans when engaged in vision quests. By way of definition, Grant’s use of the term cult was intended, in an anthropological context, to imply a particular system of religious worship, especially in reference to its external rites and ceremonies, one exhibiting an excessive devotion or dedication to a specific idea (cf. Bean and Vane, 1978).

Grant, Baird, and Pringle’s Model

Correlation of rock art sites with game trails, ambush locations, dummy hunters, hunting blinds, and the overwhelming depiction of sheep and hunting scenes led Grant et al. (1968) to pose sympathetic magic as the purpose of the drawings. The hunting magic model implies that the production of rock art helped to ensure a successful hunt of big game. Bighorn were depicted because they were some of the most difficult animals to hunt. Hunters who were successful gained great prestige (Grant et al., 1968; Hildebrandt and McGuire, 2002; McGuire and Hildebrandt, 2005).

This “hunting magic” model is not as facile as one might think. A common misunderstanding is that the model only implies the use of magic and rituals intended to facilitate the procurement of game and multiply the animal population. That is only partially correct. Significantly, in aboriginal societies, bighorn and other culturally important animals were believed to have supernatural powers and were immortals (Grant et al., 1968:34). Slain animals could rise again, reincarnated and reborn, reentering the human world in regenerated bodies. Bighorn came to be regarded as guardian spirits protecting the Coso folk both individually and as a group. Depiction of sheep demonstrated reverence and magically ensured an uninterrupted bounty in a broader sense than simply ensuring the adequate provisioning of meat (Grant et al., 1968:40-41). A complex of communal rituals placated the animal’s spirit, increased game and provisions in general, and facilitated continued success of the Coso way of life (Grant et al., 1968:34; cf. Miller, 1983:77-78). Rock art was a means of communicating with the resident Spirits and were concrete expressions on the landscape linking the areas with their intended activities for all eternity (cf. Miller, 1983:78). Enactment of associated rituals embodied transcendent realities and made them manifest in the everyday world (sensu Harrod, 2000).

Throughout the world various, culturally central, revered animal ancestors (e.g., bear, bison, caribou, deer, salmon, etc.) were the focus of ritual activity (Grant et al., 1968:34). Shamans and cult priests acted as intermediaries between the world of the supernatural and the human world. Such hunting cults were analogous to the sacred societies that venerated different immortal animal people such as the buffalo on the Plains, the salmon in the Northwest Coast, the deer in northwest California, and large sea mammals (whale, seal, or walrus) from the Arctic and Alaska to northwestern California (Marriott and Rachlin, 1968).

The associated religious activities were part of a ritual complex common to Native Americans, including those inhabiting the Great Basin, and shares elements of animal ceremonialism and the journey of ascent and descent typical of forager cosmology worldwide (Hultkrantz, 1987a, 1987b; Lee and Daly, 1999; McNeil, 2001, 2005; Rockwell, 1991; Sharp, 1988). The first half of that cycle emphasized death and post-mortem rites (see discussion below). It began with a fall festival, communal feast, pantomime dance and sing, ancestor worship, and animal funeral.

A second half of the ritual cycle was the spring revival rites or world renewal ceremonies. An annual ceremony of rejuvenation was timed to the new season of vegetation, normally in the spring, intended to bring humans back into harmony with the universe. As Hultkrantz identifies these ceremonies, “it is a reiteration of the cosmic drama through which the world was formed” (1987b:137). This was the occasion to affirm the common origin of the tribe and emphasized rebirth, magnification of game animals, and a reassurance of success in the coming years. Those rites would complete the journey of ascent with the re-emergence of animals into the human world (Sharp, 1988). The cosmic journey would finish as the game animals were led back into the world through emergence sites typically associated with underworld portals (springs, seeps, fumaroles, cracks in rocks, lakes, rivers, etc.).
Bradshaw Foundation - Introduction to Coso Rock Art
Dr. Alan P. Garfinkel - About the Author
Dr. Alan P. Garfinkel - Introduction to the Research Paper
→ | Coso Sheep Cult - Research Paper | Page |
| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 |
The Coso Range Rock Art Gallery
Coso Publications by Dr. Alan P. Garfinkel
Download PDF Documents
Talking Stone - Rock Art of the Cosos - Documentary Film
American Rock Art Archive
Bradshaw Foundation
Like us on Facebook & Follow us on Twitter to receive news & updates:
bradshaw foundation donate help
Mailing List

Email Sign-Up
website updates


First Name

Last Name


bradshaw foundation ishop dvd
bradshaw foundation podcast
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Bibliographic Database Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Privacy Policy Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Birnin Kudu Rock Art Center Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Moab, Utah Clovis First Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Avebury Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Introduction Peterborough Petroglyphs Western Canadian Rock Art Writing-On-Stone Wuikinuxv Territory Dinosaur Provincial Park Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Preservation & Education Dr. V. S. Wakankar Articles on India Rock Art Contemporary Art Sri Lanka Archive Index Rock Paintings & Engravings Sri Lanka Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Scandinavian Rock Art Archive Scandinavian Introduction Alta Rock Art Norway Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Sweden Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery A Cultural Memory Izzy Wisher Biography Deer-tooth necklace Cave Art Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Banksy Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation