Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> TATAVIAM INDIANS   > VASQUEZ ROCKS
Tataviam Rock Art: Volcano
Vasquez Rocks County Park

VASQUEZ ROCK ART

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Sun

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Lizard & Rattlesnake

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Lizard

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Volcano

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Snake

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Dotted Figure

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Black Figures

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Red Figure

The Tataviam Indians were a Shoshone-speaking people who arrived in the Upper Santa Clara River Valley (Santa Clarita Valley) about AD 450. They occupied an area bounded by Piru to the west, Newhall to the south, the Liebre Mountains to the north, and Soledad Pass to the east.

The word tataviam roughly translates into "People of the Sunny Slopes." Their Chumash neighbors on the coast called them "Aliklik," believed to be a derogatory term for the clicking sound of their language.

While it is not known exactly who preceded the Tataviam, the same area was occupied by a people, probably of Chumash origin, who arrived somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago.

The Tataviam were hunter-gatherers who organized into a series of autonomous tribelets throughout the region. They ate acorns, yucca, juniper berries, sage seeds and islay, and they hunted small game. They likely practiced a shamanist religion that put them in touch with the supernatural world through trances and hallucinations brought on by the ingestion of jimsonweed, native tobacco and other psychoto-mimetic plants found along the local rivers and streams. Such habitats also provided raw materials for baskets, cordage and netting.

The arrival of Spanish settlers in 1769 led to the demise of the Tataviam people. The Spanish rounded up the aborigines in the early 1800s and conscripted them for manual labor at the mission ranches and vineyards, where they intermarried with other native folk from other parts of Southern California. The last full-blooded Tataviam, Juan José Fustero, died on June 30, 1921, at Rancho Camulos, near Piru.*

The Tataviam left behind a vast treasure of rock art at Vasquez Rocks, which is thought to have been a major trading crossroads. The Indians used berries, charcoal and other indigenous materials to emblazon a variety of images inside caves and onto the rock surfaces. Most images had religious meanings, and while they suffered both natural degredation and vandalism during the 20th Century, steps have been taken to preserve them. The most significant 40-acre region was closed to the public in 1996.

* NOTE: While Fustero liked to bill himself as the "Last of the Piru Indians," an article in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1965 says that Fustero may actually been married to a full-blooded Tataviam woman, and that they had children. According to the tribes that represent local Native American families, as of 1997 there were approximately 600 persons of Tataviam descent living in Los Angeles County.

Update: The pictographs have been off-limits to the public since 1996. Photograph by Leon Worden in 1995.

Further reading: The Tataviam: Early Newhall Residents by Paul Higgins.

TATAVIAM ARTIFACTS

Bowers Cave

Peabody Museum Index


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Bowers Cave Specimens (Mult.)

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Bowers on Bowers Cave 1885

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Stephen Bowers Bio

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Bowers Cave: Perforated Stones (Henshaw 1887)

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Bowers Cave: Van Valkenburgh 1952

• Bowers Cave Inventory (Elsasser & Heizer 1963)


• Chiquita Landfill Expansion DEIR 2014: Bowers Cave Discussion

Vasquez Rocks

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Vasquez Rock Art x8

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Ethnobotany of Vasquez, Placerita (Brewer 2014)

Castaic Area

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Fish Canyon Bedrock Mortars & Cupules x3

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Steatite Cup, 1970 Elderberry Canyon Dig x5

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Ceremonial Bar, 1970 Elderberry Canyon Dig x4

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Projectile Points (4), 1970 Elderberry Canyon Dig

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Paradise Ranch Earth Oven

Piru Creek

Lopez Report 1974


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Twined Water Bottle x14

Tejon Area

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Basketry x2

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Coiled Basket 1875

Other

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Riverpark, aka River Village (Mult.)

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Riverpark Artifact Conveyance

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Leona Valley Site (Disturbed 2001)

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Bowl x5

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2 Baskets

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So. Cal. Basket

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Arrow Straightener

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Biface, Haskell Canyon

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Grinding Stones, Camulos

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2 Mortars, 2 Pestles, Bouquet Canyon

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