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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Indian Sandpaintings of Southern California


This paper considers the sandpaintings of southern California from a variety of points of view. Included are a reconstruction of the origin, diffusion, and historical development of the phenomenon, the role of the art in its religious context, and a stylistic analysis and comparison of similarities and differences in conception across a wider geographical area. The paper also considers the paintings as cartographical projections, and discusses how they reflect native ideas about the cosmological structure of the universe and the moral place of humans in it. Ceremonies which accompanied the groundpaintings are described here only in a schematic/summarized form because of space limitations and the availability of full exposition in the literature. Thus, the study is concerned primarily with the function of the paintings in ritual as part of an intertribal network of reciprocal social relationships. Comparisons with other pictographic tribal art forms are explored also.

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