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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Invoking Occam’s Razor: Experimental Pigment Processing and an Hypothesis Concerning Emigdiano Chumash Rock Art

  • Author(s): Reeves, Dan
  • Bury, Rick
  • Robinson, David W.
  • et al.

In 1824, the coastal Chumash revolted against the oppressive mission system and some ed to the interior mountains. Lee (1979) has hypothesized that unusual pigments at the interior rock art site of Pleito Creek (CA-KER-77) may have been brought from Mission Santa Barbara during this revolt. Documentation between 1999 and 2003 included several studies designed to learn more about the makeup of these pigments. To test Lee’s hypothesis, experiments with locally available minerals were performed in an effort to reproduce similar exotic colors. Ethnographic, ethnohistoric, and archaeological sources suggest traditional usages of these colors. Adopting Occam’s razor and the principle of parsimony, the simplest explanation is that the exotic colors at Pleito Creek were made from pigments from local, nearby sources, rather than being imported from further a eld. On the basis of superimposition analysis, the hypothesis is advanced that historic period rock art may have been made using an expedient, directly applied charcoal-black pigment

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