Monday, August 26, 2013

Early equestrian

When I was a young man my mere presence on this earth caused my father's second wife no small degree of unction. I was summarily shunted off to the obligatory boarding school where inconveniences like me tended to get sent. However truth be told, I scored. While my brother Buzz was practicing his cadences at his Über straight military academy in Carlsbad, I got the e-ticket to Desert Sun, the most liberal bastion of learning one could ever imagine, nestled in the creche of the splendid San Jacinto mountains.

I will skip the long version, suffice it to say that besides the strong curriculum I was also provided with a strong extra curricular education, everything was going swimmingly until they found the water pipe in the closet, a cacophony of tubes and pipes wound in every direction that would make the most jaded chemist peal with envy. Eighth grade, my first suspension. Dad must have been awful proud.

Anyway, as I said, skipping the sordid details we really did get a great education up there. Medium format photography and darkroom work, rock climbing, soccer, all the normal school stuff. Desert Sun had a great biology department. The teachers were hands on and we did a lot of hiking as well as exploring back roads so remote that they almost seem a fantasy to me now.

One thing I will always remember is showing up at a private ranch somewhere near Anza. Our professor knew the rancher, an older man who was kind enough to allow us admittance. We were led to a rocky cleft where after passing over a coiled rattler we found ourselves in some high caves on the property. These caves had a pictograph that we were told was the earliest North American pictograph ever found of a man on a horse. It is now sharply incised in my memory.

The year was 1971, the cave had been sealed to the public for, by my count, fifty nine long years. The newest graffiti in the camp was Irma, 1912, if my memory still serves. Have to thank Professor Beauchamp for his pull in getting us near these drawings, some forty plus years later.

Ayer's Rock, Inyo County
I have thought about the pictograph many times through the years and decided recently to see if I could find out any more information regarding it's location. I googled earliest horse pictograph, North America and will share some of the things that I have found. Nothing yet about my specific horse and rider.

Mescalero Apache petroglyph, Hueco Tanks

First I guess we should talk about the horse. The modern horse, Equus Caballus is the last surviving member of a once broad family whose cousins include tapirs and rhinos. The horse belongs to an order known as Perissodactyla, or "odd-toed ungulates", which all share hooved feet and an odd number of toes on each foot, as well as mobile upper lips and a similar tooth structure. The genus is said to have originated in North America about 4 million years ago and then spread to Eurasia across the Bering Strait 2 to 3 million years ago. There were then various back and cross migrations before the final extinction of the North American horse.

He or she died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene, but by then Equus had spread across Europe and Asia. They were then reintroduced to our continent during the sixteenth century by Spaniards. So I guess we should assume that all of the pictographs and petroglyphs extant are of the modern era. The oldest petroglyphs on the continent at a site in Nevada were recently found to be over 10,000 years old, Le Cheval was long gone by then.

Horse and rider pictographs and petroglyphs dot the entire continent. Here is a rather rough and faded pictograph of a horse and rider from Washington County, Arkansas.

Piedres Grandes - Anza Borrego
I found information about the famous Chumash four horsemen pictograph from the Santa Monica Mountains. It is possible that these depicted horsemen are from the Portola expedition of 1769 traveling on their way to Monterey.

Still I can't find my single horse and rider. Although I have one decent lead. Read a couple things about the Cary Ranch near Anza that is said to contain two horse and rider glyphs.  They even have a website that I need to peruse that unfortunately has no graphics and few pathways that will help me in my immediate quest.  But the Cary Ranch just might be my spread. It is possible that this is the very same pictograph that I was once told was the earliest on the continent.  Could there be any veracity to that old claim? Of course it is entirely possible that the horse and rider I saw lies forgotten on some other ranch...

I am interested in chasing this horse and rider down. Would appreciate any help you can provide.

From Wiki:
From the late 1860s on, Anza was largely settled by families seeking to build ranches under the Homestead Act. Of the homesteads in the area, one, the Cary Ranch on Cary Road (south of Anza, east of the Tripp Flatts Ranger Station) still exists and is still owned and occupied by family members of the original settlers. The ranch is now occupied by the Hopkins family. The Hopkins are direct descendants of the Cary family. Although the Cary Ranch used to encompass hundreds of acres of land, most has been sold off, and only a 20-acre (81,000 m2) parcel and several original buildings exist.

They even run the occasional tour. This mystery is definitely solvable. Let's find that horse and rider.

Nine Mile Canyon, Utah
Postscript 8/27/13

Reena Deutsch was gracious enough to contact me and send along these two pictures. Read her note to me in the comments section. 

 Yup. Mysteries don't stick around forever these days. Now if I could just get some pics of the old graffiti...

Photos courtesy of Reena Deutsch
If anyone is interested in joining me on a tour of the Cary Ranch next year, please let me know soon.


Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,
Just finished "pictographs" from the Blast. Puts all of us image purveyors in perspective.


Anonymous said...

Hi Robert I have this cool book that talks extensively about Anza area. It is called "Along the old Roads" "A History of the Portion of Southern California that became Riverside County 1772-1893" by Steve Lech Anyway you are welcome to borrow it. Beth

p.s. My dog chewed the cover

Anonymous said...

I’m reading the Blast and came across the April 5 tour of the Cary Ranch led by Reena Deutsch. Is that April 2013 or 2014? Reena used to be on the faculty in Biostatistics at UCSD, where I knew her. Sounds as if she’s having a great retirement.

A couple of years ago an archeologist friend, retired from the Forest Service, took us to see a dinosaur foot print on the grounds of the Boy Scout center in Cimarron, NM – it’s the center for all the national boy scout outing stuff in the summer. An interesting history: it was owned by one of the Phillips Oil guys, who built a huge Spanish Revival mansion there (vacation home) in the 1930s (with two wonderful New Mexico rooms that he decorated, separate from the Spanish/Italian decoration of the rest of the house) – Villa Philmonte (there are tours). He moved to Beverly Hills and thrived in real estate speculation, and gave the NM property to the Boy Scouts. The dinosaur prints are unusual (unique?) in that they have both the bottom and the top of the foot – as if the ground were sufficiently moist that it retained the print of the top of the foot as well as the bottom. What’s the connection of your memory with this story? Not so sure – landscape feature from another era, I guess.


Anonymous said...

Dear Robert,
Yes. The Cary Ranch in Anza has the horse-and-rider pictographs widely
believed to have been painted in the 1770s by the Mountain Cahuilla
natives residing there to reflect what they saw when the two expeditions
led by Juan Bautista de Anza passed through during the 1774 exploration
and 1775-1776 colonizing trips from Sonora, Mexico up to the Bay area. I
don't know if it is the earliest horse-and-rider in NA, but I do know that
there are no other such drawings anywhere in the area, and the timeframe
when created is pretty much agreed on by archaeologists and others. It is
still a privately owned 160-acre ranch, partly owned by the Cary family
and partly owned by a family in the Pacific Northwest.

In the 1990s, the Carys and I formed the non-profit organization "La
Puerta Foundation" to protect and preserve the resources there (also
ranching, Anza expedition, and native American histories and artifacts
contribute to the valuable resources). There are several rock art sites,
including two that were just uncovered in the last few years. The
organization went away after about 12 years, but now the Archaeological
Conservancy has an easement on most of the property to give it some degree
of permanent protection.

I have attached a photo of one of the several horse-and-rider pictos in
one of the caves, and a second photo to show that element in a bit more
context. Traditionally in April, I lead a tour to the ranch, normally
closed to the public. The tour is through the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural
History Association. I expect there will be another one in 2014, so you
can check maybe starting in February 2014 with reservation
information. The trip usually fills up pretty fast. If you want to contact
me earlier, at this email address (not to the one you sent your email,
please), I will let you know when it is scheduled, since it gets scheduled
a few months in advance. If you have a big enough group, we can organize a
separate tour for your group.

Jane was right - I did retire from UCSD in 2006, but I un-retired in 2009
and am back at work in a different UCSD department part-time.

The website you referred me to mentions that the Cary Ranch property is
occupied by the Hopkins family. I never heard of them. There are people
living at the ranch unrelated to the Carys, but I do not believe their
name is Hopkins. Also, the property was never split or "sold off." It is
still 160+ acres and will remain that way forever. Several of the original
buildings remain, including some remnants of the adobe home of cattleman
Fred Clark who bought the site from the Indians in 1891. It is truly a
magical place... beautiful, spiritual, full of history and voices from the
past. I really hope you can visit it. We don't give out the address, since
the public is not allowed on the property without prior permission.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance. I hope you consider
your puzzle solved.

Very respectfully,
Reena Deutsch