3.13 A Study of Some California Indian Rock Art Pigments

David A. Scott
The Getty Conservation Institute
William D. Hyder
University of California, Santa Cruz
John Johnson
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
Duane Christian
United States Department of the Interior,
Bureau of Land Management
Steven Horn
Los Padres National Forest
Period of Activity: 1988-present

Project Abstract
The work currently being carried out on the Chumash Indian rock art pigments has involved the study of samples from a number of sites in the Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, and Kern County areas. Most of the sites occur in the historic Chumash area with some of the art in the Coso Yokuts tribal zones. The Californian sites studied so far include: Painted Cave: SBa506; Morris Cabin Creek: SBa1288; Pool Rock: SBa1632; Condor Cave: SBa1633; Carneros Rock: Ker161; Indian Wells Canyon: Ker735 and Ker736; Edgar Rock: SLO336; North Selby: SLO1103; and Painted Rock: SLO79.

The study was instigated to determine what pigments had been employed by the Chumash Indians and was based on pigment microsamples and rock art fragments excavated from site debris. The techniques of examination employed in the study were polarized light microscopy, environmental scanning electron microscopy, electron microprobe, color measurement in situ, and powder X-ray diffraction powder.

The pigments identified in the study include: yellow and red ochre, wood charcoal, probably shell white and halloysite (a white clay). The associated mineral crusts occurring with the rock art surface were also studied and gypsum was found to be a common component, together with the calcium oxalate, whewellite calcium. The potential alteration of carbonate pigments to gypsum is inferred from the study.

Primary Publications
Scott, D. A., and W. D. Hyder, "A Study of Some Californian Indian Rock Art Pigments," submitted to Studies in Conservation, The Getty Conservation Institute, 1992.

ABSTRACT-The State of California contains many Indian rock art sites which were produced by indigenous groups, particularly the Chumash. However, little analytical scientific work has been published relating to pictograph sites in California. The pigments studied here include black, white, yellow, and red.