David Whitley – The archaeology of dreams: An introduction to south-central California rock art

2 June 2020, 6 pm (CET)  
Online seminar.

WHO: David Whitley (ASM Affiliates, California)

South-central California contains the renowned rock paintings of the Chumash, Yokuts and related tribes. Substantial ethnography on the making and meaning of this art has been collected over the last 150 years. This demonstrates that the art portrays “dreams,” a gloss for visionary experiences, yet this origin for the art was not its sole function or purpose. Dreams were demonstrations of the receipt of supernatural power, itself believed the principle causative agent in the universe. All people had some power; powerful individuals—shamans, chiefs, successful hunters, etc—had more than most. And since logic is commutative, people who were successful in any capacity were assumed to have unusual quantities of power. Because rock paintings demonstrate the receipt of power, concentrations of rock art represent places not solely with unusual religious importance. As concentrations of potency, they were important at all levels: religious, economic and political. The south-central California rock art landscape thus mirrors the political geography of this inland region. The archaeology of the Carrizo Plain, with the largest concentration of Chumash paintings, illustrates the changing distribution of political power and population with the onset of the Medieval Climatic Anomaly, ca. 1200 YBP, and provides a lesson in how climate change effects societies.