Mitten Rock; the Saddle Rock Ranch Pictograph Site is at its
National Historic Landmarks photograph, taken by NPS-WRO,
The Saddle Rock Ranch Pictograph Site,
also known as the "Cave of the Four Horsemen," is
a Native American rock art and settlement site located in the
Santa Monica Mountains of California. The site is located at
the base of two impressive natural landmarks, Mitten Rock and
Saddle Rock, which rises 3/4 of a mile to the west. These peaks
served as landmarks for prehistoric travelers and early historic
explorers. In addition, peaks such as these were frequently
sacred places among the Chumash, the people who occupied the
area at the time of European exploration and settlement.
The site consists of a rockshelter (a shallow cave or rock
overhang occupied by humans) and a midden (an accumulation
of debris and domestic waste accompanying a human habitation site).
Native Americans lived in this area as early as 5000 B.C., and
continued occupying the area through historic times. Nearly 100
painted figures and abstract elements (called pictographs) were
probably added to the rockshelter after 500 A.D.
The Saddle Rock site is considered to
be of national significance for several reasons. The extensive
and well-preserved pictographs are characteristic of the final
development of the distinctive Chumash style. They include the
only depictions in Chumash art of human figures in profile and
of mounted horsemen.
Archaeological test excavations at this site
in the early 1980s recovered a greater variety and amount of material
than is usually found at inland rockshelter sites. Excavations also
revealed an exceptionally long occupational sequence that extended
well into the historic period. The Saddle Rock site will probably
continue to yield information of major scientific importance about
Chumash life, including data on settlement patterns, trade, religion,
cosmology, and the possible use of the site for astronomical observation.
Pictograph of human-like figure. National Historic
photograph, taken by E.P. Tripp, 1988.
The Saddle Rock Ranch Pictograph Site is
also significant for its association with the history of Spanish
exploration of California and the establishment of relations between
the Spanish and the native people. The horsemen portrayed in the
pictographs are considered to be a representation of Gaspar de
Portola's exploring party, which journeyed through the area in
1769-70. The site's general association with patterns of Spanish
exploration and its specific association with de Portola add to
its national significance.
Drawing of the "Four Horsemen" pictographs.
From National Historic Landmark nomination; originally published
in Pictographs with a historic component: LAN-717, A
Los Angeles County rock art site. Gregory A. Reinhardt,
1981. In Messages of the Past: studies in California
rock art. Ed. by Clement Meighan. Monograph 20,
Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los
The Saddle Rock Ranch Pictograph Site was listed in the National
Register on February 12, 1982. The site was determined eligible
to be designated a National Historic Landmark on March 16th, 1990
by the Secretary of the Interior.