Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park

Burro Flats Painted Cave

Burro Flats Painted Cave is a cave in a mountainous area located between Simi Valley, California and Chatsworth, California, containing Chumash Indian pictographs. The cave is located on private land owned by Boeing-Rocketdyne (formerly operated at Rocketdyne's Santa Susana Field Laboratory used to test rocket engines) and is not accessible to the public.

Among the pictographs at Burro Flats are two human stick figures wearing headdresses with lines radiating from the heads. There are also stick-figure animals with four fingers, a circle with a star inside, a plant resembling a cornstalk, and more abstract groupings of circles and lines with a tail. The cave is a small, hollowed-out portion of a long, low rock set into a grassy slope. The Burro Flats pictographs have been termed "the best preserved Indian pictograph in Southern California." Archaeologists estimate the drawings are several hundred years old. There is a replica of the pictographs at the Southwest Museum.

In 1971, the Los Angeles Times reported that some have suggested "that the cave's drawings were made by Indian maidens who slept here and drew what they saw in their dreams, perhaps as part of puberty rites." Others have suggested that it was used as an astronomical observatory and to celebrate the winter solstice. The Chumash celebrated the "return of the sun" as their civilization depended on the sun for life. Anthropologist Al Knight has said described the importance of the winter solstice to the local Chumash as follows: "The entire local Native American Indian religious ritual cycle is centered on the moment of winter solstice. It's like rolling together our Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's celebration in one event." Another theory is that the drawings were a cooperative effort between the Chumash and Gabrielino tribes in the 1400s to celebrate the solstice and friendship between the two tribes. One anthropology professor has opined that the Burro Flats pictographs were painted between 500 A.D. and the arrival of the Spanish settlers. He noted, "They've had very little vandalism, one of the least molested sites I know of."

Directions

The site is three miles south of the San Marcos Pass: Take Highway 154 out of Santa Barbara and turn right on Painted Caves Road. The cave is located on the left, about two miles up a steep, narrow road. The pullout at the site will only accommodate one or two vehicles. Trailers and RVs should not attempt the road.