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Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons are two principal landforms within which are found major accumulations of rock art by the prehistoric Coso People.[1] These canyons are part of the Coso Rock Art District near China Lake, California. In addition to the extant petroglyph art, the Coso People carried out extensive working of obsidian tools and other manufacturing. There is considerable archaeological evidence substantiating trade of these products between the Coso People and other Native American tribes. For example, distant trade with the Chumash People is confirmed by archaeological recovery from California sites in San Luis Obispo County[2] and other coastal sites. Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons are situated on property of the U.S. Naval Weapons Station at China Lake. The two canyons are a designated U.S. National Historic Landmark.[3]

Coso petroglyphs have been subject to various interpretations as to their meaning and function. One perspective argues that the drawings are metaphoric images correlated with individual shamanic vision quests. Alternatively it has been argued that they are part of a hunting religion that included increase rites and were associated with a sheep cult ceremonial complex (Garfinkel 2006, 2007).


  1. ^ Caroline Arnold and Richard Hewett. 1996
  2. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2008
  3. ^ Mildred Brooke Hoover, Douglas E. Kyle and Hero Rensch. 2002


  • Caroline Arnold and Richard Hewett. 1996. Stories in stone: rock art pictures by early Americans, 48 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 0395720923, 9780395720929
  • C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Morro Creek, ed. by A. Burnham [1]
  • Mildred Brooke Hoover, Douglas E. Kyle and Hero Rensch. 2002. Historic spots in California, 661 pp, Stanford University Press, ISBN 0804744823, 9780804744829
  • Alan P. Garfinkel. 2006. Paradigm Shifts, Rock Art Studies, and the 'Coso Sheep Cult' of Eastern California. North American Archaeologist 27(3):203-244. [2]
  • Alan P. Garfinkel. 2007. Archaeology and Rock Art of the Eastern Sierra and Great Basin Frontier, Maturango Museum Publication 22, Ridgecrest, California.
  • Alan P.Garfinkel,Donald R. Austin, David Earle, and Harold Williams. 2009. Myth, Ritual and Rock Art: Coso Decorated Animal-Humans and the Animal Master. Rock Art Research 26(2):179-197. The Journal of the Australian Rock Art Research Association (AURA) and of the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO). [3]
  • Alan P. Garfinkel, David A. Young, and Robert M. Yohe, II. 2010. Bighorn Hunting, Resource Depression, and Rock Art in the Coso Range of Eastern California: A Computer Simulation Model. Journal of Archaeological Science 37:42-51. [4]


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