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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Rock Art, Ritual, and the Cosmos: A Landscape Investigation of CA-MRP-402

  • Author(s): Grimaldi Clarkson, Christine A.
  • Advisor(s): Hull, Kathleen L.
  • et al.
Abstract

This thesis interprets the role the rock art at CA-MRP-402 played in the cultural landscape for the people who created the images. Located in Mariposa County, California, this site exhibits 103 rock art panels. By combining formal landscape methods, ritual theory, ethnography, field research, and excavation, this thesis explores the activities that took place at CA-MRP-402, how this site fits into the broader cultural landscape, and why the cultural landscape of this site attracted people to mark this place. These efforts reveal that ancient Native Americans intentionally altered the landscape of CA-MRP-402 to create an astronomical observation area and generate consistent equinoctial solar and shadow alignments. This area may have afforded a type of calendar that allowed shaman astronomers to know when it was time to perform necessary rituals. Most of the rock art at CA-MRP-402 was likely created by shaman astronomers as part of their ritual interactions with the celestial beings. This study also serves to validate this multifaceted contextual approach.

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