Cover image for The art of the shaman : rock art of California
The art of the shaman : rock art of California
Whitley, David S.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Art des chamanes de Californie. English
Publication Information:
Salt Lake City : University of Utah Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
138 pages : illustrations (some color), color maps ; 32 cm
The discovery of Rodriguez Cabrillo -- The native Californian world -- Types and ages of native California rock art -- Rock art traditions -- Ethnography and Californian rock art -- Altered states of consciousness and metaphors of the supernatural.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E78.C15 W52 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



Native Californian rock art includes some of the finest examples of traditional art in the world. Ranging from complex polychrome cave paintings and deeply incised designs on basalt canyon walls to large earthen figures along the terraces of the Colorado River, this art invites wonder and curiosity.

The Art of the Shaman is more than a gallery of lavish illustrations. Beginning with a basic description of the nature, age, and variability of California rock art, David Whitley accomplishes the ambitious feat of interpreting the symbolism itself. His well-grounded exposition sets this book apart from other rock art books.

Whitley demonstrates that California rock art was not created simply for artistic expression but was deliberately intended to represent symbolic systems communicating relatively few specific messages. These included vision questing, initiation, fertility, sexuality, the mythic past, life crises, and altered states of consciousness, all centered on shamanistic experience in thisworld and beyond. Inasmuch as shamanism was the basis for all Native Californian religions, Whitley taps the rich ethnographic information available on the subject to provide the underlying logic for much of the art in the various California traditions.

The Art of the Shaman is a masterwork on rock art that should be in the library of anyone who has ever looked at an ancient pictograph with awe.

Author Notes

David S. Whitley is an archaeologist who specializes in the study of prehistoric art and religion.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. 7
1 The Discovery of Rodriguez Cabrillop. 9
2 The Native Californian Worldp. 13
3 Types and Ages of Native California Rock Artp. 35
4 Rock Art Traditionsp. 47
5 Ethnography and Californian Rock Artp. 71
6 Altered States of Consciousness and Metaphors of the Supernaturalp. 105
Epiloguep. 124
Notesp. 125
Referencesp. 130
Appendix Visiting California Rock Art Sitesp. 137