Advanced Studies in California Archaeology – ANTH 314
Professor Dr. Jew
Friday, October 25, 2019
The Snow Creek Rock Shelter Site (RIV-210) was documented as a temporary camp with possible ceremonial activity. With the 2,836 specimens cataloged combined with the pictograph descriptions, I surmise that this site was used as a healing place and as a production site for spiritual healing points to trade. RIV-210 was excavated in 1964. The site was used by bee keepers, and was heavily looted by this time. Michels and a team of University of California Los Angeles students used a grid pattern to excavate 12 inches deep using the grid system. They also excavated the surrounding area. (Michels, 1964) The people who were known as Pass Cahuilla and were later defined as the Wanikik Clan, lived in the San Bernardino and Riverside County area. Pre-Tribal Era, small pox was a major concern for the Cahuilla. By applying a broader cultural understanding of the Cahuilla and time period, will add the shelter’s purpose to the “The Snow Creek Rock Shelter (RIV-210) Report” by Joseph W. Michels in 1964.
The Snow Creek Rock Shelter is located in the San Gorgonio Pass Area, 10 miles south of HWY 111 in Southern California. The Snow Creek Rock Shelter is named after the seasonal Snow Creek, which is a half a mile east of the site. Up further from the Snow Creek Rock Shelter was a permanent village of the Wanikik Clan. (Michels, 1964) The site is currently on U.S. Forest Service property.
Description Of The Site
RIV-210 is at the base and hugs Mt. San Jacinto. In front of the rock shelter numerous rocks and boulders scattered the area around 70 feet. The Shelter is 18 feet in height resembling a cathedral ceiling with a 17 foot base. A large curved granite slab form the outside wall. (Michels, 1964) The South wall no longer has traces of a pictograph. The West wall has a mixture of damage pictograph and a well preserved section. On the West side is a long narrow room about 20 feet long. The end of this long narrow room contains burnt marks on the wall. Located next to the site, sits a rock with a few cupules.
The Clan Using The Area
Pre-Tribal Era, Cahuilla clans married into, and also joined other clans in Southern California. The Teshana Wanikik Clan occupied the Snow Creek area. (Doody, Meltzer, 2007) The Cahuilla were patrilineal clans, and lived in areas from the San Gorgonio Pass to the Desert. People could not marry within the same clan or moiety. These clans were either the Wildcat or Coyote. Moieties were establish for marriage purposes. Large clans could consist of different moieties from other areas. (Harvey, 1967) According to Dr. Lowell Bean’s field notes with a Morongo Elder “the Pierce family (Pierce girls, as she put it) were descendants of the Cahuilla lineage that lived in Snow Creek Canyon”. (Bean, 1979) The Teshana means “something hanging at” and the word “evonakiktum” were applied to the clans at Snow Creek. The last clans to make their home at Snow Creek Canyon are now members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs. It is recorded by Francisco Patencio that Evon ga net (the Fox) named Snow Creek “Na hal log” meaning “center of an open place”. (Wagstaff, et al, 1982) This establishes that the Wanakik Clan were located at the Snow Creek Canyon and joined the Palm Springs Clans.
Small Pox had effected the Cahuilla Territory between 1862-1863 and did not spread to the Desert area because Tribal leaders called for a quarantine. In 1890, the Cahuilla population had increased in size compared to the over all aboriginal population of California due to the devastating effects of Small Pox. One of the reasons for the ending of small pox was quarantine of infected Indians. (Harvey, 1967) Indian Medicine Men began addressing the disease with sweats, herbs and isolation. Tribal leaders held meetings concerning Small Pox and accepting clans into their fold. One of these meetings took place in Palm Canyon/Tahquitz Canyon. Before any clans could come into their group the leader stated “My sons and daughters, as the Great Spirit arises in the East, he comes to help us and he has given me the medicine and the power to cure all those of you who are sick. You will now go to the big cave where you will receive proper care and treatment. All of you shall go, even those who are not suffering from this devil’s disease. And you will all be treated alike so that your blood shall be purified to guard you against the disease.” There were many caves in the San Jacinto Mountain ranges used for cave-hospitals and used as treatment centers. (Romero, 1954) Due to quarantine of the Cahuilla people, Small Pox did not spread further into their territories.
RIV-210 has two areas of pictographs with little information of their makers or meanings. Taking in the history consideration at the time combined with the items excavated, these ancient markings could be marking the clan area and healing intention. There are no oral histories from the Cahuilla’s on the meaning of rock art in rock shelters or caves. Before 1970, few rock art studies were done, they were not described well and there were very little interpretations. (McCarthy and Mouriquand, 2005) Pictographs are made from pitting the rock surface with hematite, leaving a red history of the makers intent. There were two pictograph areas at the RIV-210 site documented by Michels with drawings not photographs. He notes there is weathering damage to both. Michels interprets the markings to be hands. (Michels, 1964) Archaeologist David Whitley argues that almost all rock art is due to shamanism practice. Dr. Lowell Bean stated that rock art “were places known to be dangerous because of the presence of powerful beings. Shamans and other ritual leaders frequently had sites of this kind for their own exclusive use, where they carried out esoteric activities.” According to Francisco Patencio, Evon ga net (the Fox) marked territories for his people. (McCarthy and Mouriquand, 2005) Others such as Romero interrpreted that rock art is evidence of the healing. (Romero, 1954) The Wanikik Clan had a permanent village not far from the rock shelter. The pictographs on RIV-210 indicates the shelter was for special ceremonial use.
A clay pipe stem fragment was recovered at RIV-210 with the mouth end intact. (Michels, 1964) Smoking pipes has been part of ceremonial Cahuilla culture since time immemorial as told through their creation story. The twin creators Mukat and Tamaioit took tobacco and clay from their bodies to create pipes. The smoke from the pipes took away the darkness and from this median men used smoke from pipes for healing. (Hooper, 1920) Alejo Patencio also relates the pipe smoking by the twin creators to an archaeologist in 1929. Pipes were made out of stone or pottery. (Langenwalter, 1980) Not only were pipes and smoking part of the creation stories and used by medicine men, smoking is currently used in traditional Cahuilla wakes.
Clear Quartz and Shell Bead
Excavated from the RIV-210 site were evidence of quartz point production and one purple olive shell bead. Taking into account the sacredness of this site, the quartz points created here were intended for ceremonial purposes. 38 bifacially pressure flaked points were identified. Of these 12 were clear to opaque quartz. Also collected at RIV-210, were chipping detritus. Of the 368 chipping detritus, 32% was quartz. (Michels, 1964) At five sites in Bolsa Chica Mesa and Huntington Beach Mesa, a study showed a strong probability that the quartz crystal specimens were connected to magical arts or ceremonial behavior. Through out much of California archaeological science shows long term crystal use. The quartz found at the five coastal sites in the study are not from the area. The study states that the quartz supplied to the shamans along the coast must have been supplied from various areas including San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. (Koerper, et al, 2002) With the evidence of point production, the shell bead was an indication of bilateral trade.
Steam Cave and Fauna
Located inside RIV-210, is a long narrow room with fire marks on the wall. Michels stated this was an indoor fire hearth. A fire hearth was located outside as well. I surmise that this long narrow inside room was used for steaming, a method used for healing. Shaman were healers and also filled many roles of leadership. The word Shaman originated from the Asian Tungus language. Common maladies were treated with herbs, sweating and with songs. (Bean, 1992) There were deer bones found at the site without any indication butchering. A number of burnt smaller animal bones were recovered as well. This indicates that food was butchered and brought to the site, possibly to feed the sick occupants at the time. Sweating was part of the healing process, the long narrow room at RIV-210 was used for healing.
When “white mans” disease came, native people needed quarantine and healing. Such a sacred place logically is a location for production points. The Snowcreek Rock Shelter RIV-210 was used as a quarantine and healing place. Michel’s documentation of the items recovered was extensive and limited in scope. Taking a closer look at the items found, leads one to the conclusion that this shelter was indeed used for healing during the Pre-Tribal Era. The long narrow room inside, the pictographs on the wall and evidence of food brought to this shelter, all indicate RIV-210 was a healing hospital and sacred production point location.
Bean, Lowel, PHD., Anthropologist, Archived at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, Correspondence to Larry Pierce, Agua Caliente Tribal Council, 1979
Bean, Lowel, PHD., California Indian Shamanism, Ballena Press, 1992
Louis Doody, Betty Kikumi Meltzer, Losing Ground The Displacement of San Gorgonio Pass Cahuilla People in the 19th Century, Malki Museum, 2007, Page 3
H.R. Harvey, 1967, Population of the Cahuilla Indians:Decline and its causes, Eugenics Quarterly, Volume 14, Number 3, Pages185-198
Lucile Hopper, 1920, The Cahuilla Indians, University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethonology, Vol. 16, No. 6., Pages 315-380
Henry C. Koerper, Nancy Anastasia Desautels, Jeffrey S. Couch, 2002,Quartz Crystals and Other Sparkling Minerals from the Bolsa Chica Archaeological Project, Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly, Volume 38, Number 4
LANGENWALTER, REBECCA E. “A Possible Shaman's Cache from CA-Riv-102, Hemet, California.” Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, vol. 2, no. 2, 1980, pp. 233–244. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27825029.
Daniel F. McCarthy, Leslie J. Mouriquand, Three Rock Art Sites at Coral Mountain, La Quinta, Riverside County, California, Pacific Coast Archaeological Society quarterly. v. 41, no. 4 (2005), p. 27-61
Joseph W. Michels, 1964, The Snow Creek Rock Shelter Sited (RIV-210), Annual Report Archaeological Survey, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles
John Bruno Romero, The Botanical Lore of the California Indians: with Side Lights on Historical Incidents in California, Vantage Press, Inc, 1954, pages 3-5
WAGSTAFF AND BRADY, Rober Odland Associates, in association with Converse Word Davis Dixon, Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement #158, San Gorgonio Wind Resource Study, March 1982