The Coso Range Canyons contain the highest concentration of rock art in the Northern Hemisphere. More than 6,000 images have been pecked, engraved, or abraded into the desert varnish or patina that forms on basalt rocks with time and weathering.
No one knows for sure how old these petroglyphs are. A broad range of dates can be inferred from archaeological sites in the area and some artifact forms depicted on the rocks. Some of them may be as old as 16,000 years, some as recent as the 1800s. Designs range from animals to abstract to anthropomorphic figures. Opinions vary widely whether the petroglyphs were made for ceremonial purposes, whether they are telling stories to pass along the mythology of their makers, or whether they are records of hunting hopes or successes, clan symbols or maps.
Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964, the rock art in Little Petroglyph Canyon provides fascinating insights into the cultural heritage and knowledge of the desert’s past. Everything in the canyon area is fully protected, including the obsidian chips and any artifacts or tools, as well as the petroglyphs and native vegetation and wildlife.
Little Petroglyph Canyon contains 20,000 documented images, which surpasses in number most other collections.
Sharing These Cultural Resources
NAWS China Lake firmly believes that the petroglyphs located within the installation are a treasure and should be shared. Little Petroglyph Canyon is open to the public for tours. Please see the Petroglyph Tours page for information about setting up a tour.
If you are interested in learning about the petroglyphs and sharing that information with the public as a tour escort, please visit the Petroglyph Tour Escorts page for information about how to become a volunteer tour escort.