Ancient Pictographs

For over 6000 years the Esselen Tribe inhabited northern regions of the Santa Lucia range and Big Sur coast. Archeological sites and artifacts persist throughout Big Sur. The images here are from a single cave in the mountains where the Esselen peoples lived and created these petroglyphs. Their meaning is now unknown, the legacy of Christianization and the separation of the Esselen Tribe from their ancestral lands.


by Robinson Jeffers

Inside a cave in a narrow canyon near Tassajara

The vault of rock is painted with hands,

A multitude of hands in the twilight, a cloud of men’s palms, no more,

No other picture. There’s no one to say

Whether the brown shy quiet people who are dead intended

Religion or magic, or made their tracings

In the idleness of art; but over the division of years these careful

Signs-manual are now like a sealed message

Saying: “Look: we also were human; we had hands, not paws. All hail

You people with the cleverer hands, our supplanters

In the beautiful country; enjoy her a season, her beauty, and come down

And be supplanted; for you also are human.”