If you've ever traveled through petroglyph country in Owens
Valley or elsewhere, you may have noticed large circles of rock
which once served as the foundation for ancient Indian housing.
Within these circles you often will find bedrock mortars where
Indian women would sit for hours upon hours grinding seeds and
whatnot to be used in their family meals. Sitting at these bedrock
mortars grinding foodstuffs all day, was a tiring and boring job.
The women would
sit and stare at a flat faced boulder in the distance and gossip as
they did their daily food grinding. One day, an Indian shaman came
along and offered them something more entertaining, but only if they
sacrificed their virgin daughters to him. Once the Indian women
agreed to do this, the Oprah show immediately appeared on the
big rock. The women clapped their hands in appreciation, and found
that this “Oprah Rock” educated them, entertained them, and helped
to pass the time more quickly.
Bedrock mortars with ancient "Oprah Rock" on the right.
The Indian men
had been gone for weeks hunting, gathering and etching rock drawing
directions to these places for others. They were absolutely
fascinated with this new moving picture rock their women were
staring at. But Oprah Winfrey wasn't exactly their cup of Mormon (or
perhaps in this case I should say, squaw) tea, so the good shaman
channeled the big rock in on Dr. Phil for awhile. The women
enjoyed Dr. Phil as much as they did Oprah, but the
men weren't impressed at all, and begged for something more
exciting. The shaman agreed to oblige the men on the condition they
brought their young sons to him, as the women had brought their
young daughters. For the most part, the ancient Indian men were not
inclined to sacrifice their virgin sons to the shaman, so they
rarely got to enjoy Monday Night Football.
To this day, you
will find many Oprah and Dr.Phil rocks in the desert
and mountain southwest, but rarely will you come across the Monday
Night Football Rock. Occasionally you will find several big flat
faced rocks clustered together, and you may faintly hear strains of
Indian drumbeats in the almost constantly blowing wind. You can rest
assured that you have found the site of an ancient Indian rock
concert. If this sighting is in the forest as opposed to the desert,
and there is a good supply of wood lying nearby, perhaps you have
found the place of the ancient Indian Woodstock.
While it's not
backroads politically correct to divulge the exact location of
cultural rock sites, wood or otherwise, there is one ancient Indian
rock that is so plentiful you will see actual signs marking where he
is most likely to appear. I'm sure you are quite familiar with these
garish bright yellow/orange-ish signs with big black markings which
particularly appear on curvaceous mountain highways near unstable
rock hillsides. Watch out for these during your travels. This rock,
and the others that are prone to follow him, is considered quite
In his book "A
Guide to Rock Art Sites in Southern California and Southern Nevada",
David S. Whitley makes no mention of the numerous big rock tv's that
can be found throughout ancient Indian cultural sites. However, he
does fill us in on why he believes shamans created rock art, and
what these drawings might possibly mean.
Visitors view and photograph a petroglyph site on the
Volcanic Tablelands north of Bishop.
In the Owens
Valley, there are numerous petrgolyphs for us to ponder. One of the
most interesting sites is called "footprints on the rock", created
by the ancient nymph known as “Water Baby”. Hunter-gatherer sites
throughout the world commonly portray foot and hand prints. Perhaps
these footprints lead the way to the great hunting sites themselves,
or perhaps lead the animals to the sites where they are to be
color image makes these "footprints on the rock" stand out.
Regardless of what or why, these footprint carvings etched
in large panels of rocks in the Great Basin are said to have been
works of the diminutive ancient Indian spirit helper known as “Water
Baby”, or “Water Dwarf”. Water Baby has been commonly described as a
“short, long-haired male human” dressed in traditional Indian
resided in springs and rivers, and passed a lot of his time
partaking of native tobacco. His footprints are most often found
around what once were the site of springs and water holes where he
resided during ancient times. He was a great shaman spirit helper
and is attributed as the creator of the petrgolyphs.
It was said that
a sighting of the Water Baby would result in death. The death in
this case, was more than likely the altered state of consciousness
induced by hallucinogenic native tobacco or other psychotropic
substances, not necessarily a real death at all. The sight of Water
Baby’s tracks may signify that supernatural experience.
As we traverse
over the remnants of the ancient Indian trails, on paths that more
modern 19th century travelers took in search of riches and wealth in
the mining camps the likes of Bodie and Aurora, we have been known
to stumble across Water Baby’s footprints in the rock. We
occasionally run across the great Oprah and Dr. Phil rocks, by the
bedrock mortars and ancient Indian house circles, as well.
Surprisingly, we don’t have to smoke any of that special tobacco to
see these visions, and we have always lived to tell about it
A Guide To Rock Art Site Southern California and Southern Nevada
by David S. Whitley
Mountain Press Publishing