I propose a fair degree of importance was given by the local Cochimi clan to the Lizard Man site aka Manuel Diaz’ Cave, as evidenced by the historical trail still visible and by a number of pictographs only equaled in the El Tordillo arroyo, by the Pez Gallo site and Pescadito site.
I suspect that this shelter was visited mostly for ritual purposes, perhaps for exercising hunting magic rituals. The presence of two metates indicate that for some time the site was used by Cochimi to congregate and grind seeds. The lack of a shell midden either indicates that the site was not often used for eating or that the eaters had a strong enough arm to throw the empty shells into the wash immediately below the shelter.
The black Lizard Man poses questions. . . The initial pictograph of prominence on this rock is the red fish and maybe this image was the ‘totem’ of an individual painter or shaman. Is it possible then, that a later person, perhaps another shaman, was seeking to displace the ‘fish man’ or lessen his power and influence over the clan? To do this would no doubt involve some magic be performed and as part of the magic a graphic representation would perhaps have been required as visual evidence to other members of the clan. So perhaps this person had as his or her totem a Black Lizard Man and this image was rendered over the red fish effectively nullifying the effect of that image and imposing the magic of the Lizard Man on the clan and perhaps banishing the Fish Man. The most recent superimposition is the reverse handprint of a left hand sprayed with red paint. A decisive ‘Halt’ sign if you will, perhaps to preempt the Lizard Man and his effect on the clan with an ‘Enough of this!’ statement. Is the use of the left hand significant?
This pictograph grouping then seems to illustrate some of the struggles between elements of power in the Cochimi clan(s) that for a time, frequented this area.
Note: a similar pictorial struggle for power between another Lizard Man is also illustrated/inferred in the main pictograph in the Dos Venados shelter in the San Juan arroyo some 10kms to the south. (This will be described elsewhere on this site.)
Can you see a similar situation with the other groupings of fish with pointed heads superimposed over other objects in the shelters in this arroyo? Was the Fish Man/shaman finally overcome or evicted, or was the Lizard Man the one expelled?
The historical trails:
The historical trails that lead to the Lizard Man Shelter and to the Pescadito Cave also causes reflection and questions. The present state or condition of both of these trails show evidence of concerted effort in their construction. The fact that these trails are still, in part, easily visible and easily traversed today, after many hundreds of years, speaks to the durability of their construction and possibly to the large number of people using them in the days of Cochimi occupation. This then lends significant importance to the sites at the ends of these trails. It can be seen that large rocks were moved where they hindered passage. A fairly consistent grade has been established and in the case of the Pescadito trail, zig-zag switchback turns made with a good eye for ease of passage. The trail width is fairly consistent at about one meter which would allow easy passage of one person without treading close to a downhill edge. This width would also allow two people going in opposite directions to pass each other with relative ease.
So, gentle reader, consider that these trails would have taken hundreds of man-hours to construct and perhaps consider who would have made these trails. Cochimi, certainly (most probably), but would they have been egalitarian labourers from the clan, volunteers in the sense that ‘everyone’ chips in to get the job done, conscripted labour from among the same clan, or maybe forced labour from slaves or prisoners from another clan? Whichever selection you think is the best fit, consider that these people would have to be fed, watered, and housed. The housing is a moot point, but if they were slaves or prisoners, they would have had to be somewhat confined and guarded. The guards, at least during the times allotted to their guard duty, would not have been available to search for food. This again points to a surplus of food.
This then points to a society that, at least for a time, has risen above the bare subsistence level that some scholars attribute to the Cochimi clans of this area. Food resources will have had to be plentiful enough to feed the trail labourers, or, if the labourers were egalitarian, then their time was not needed to actively search for food ie they had leisure time. At least this would apply during whatever period of the Holocene the trails were built.
Note: the historical trails terminate at their respective shelters and do not continue past them. There are no pastures or grazing land above the shelters that would encourage present day ranchers to use, or maintain these trails, consequently, the trails can be attributed only to the people who sought easier access to the respective shelters. . . the Cochimi.
It was about a four year journey to find Manuel’s cave. So, does it end here? Not so. After photographing the elements in the Lizard Man Cave I visited Manuel Diaz where he lives nearby with his son on the El Burro beach. I showed the photo images on my computer to Manual and asked for confirmation that this was his cave. He was quite happy and smiled and gestured at the images especially the photos that were enhanced using D-Stretch. We chatted for a while and when I left, Manuel seemed quite content. I’m glad I could share, and I’m glad he saw the photos.
Thank you Manuel Diaz and his family for access to their land. Thank you Jim Workman for lighting the fire and being an inspiring companion. Thanks to Garry Davidson who came with us on some of these rock art trips, although we know he would rather have been out fishing! Thanks are due also to photos from Bruce and Marian Schweers who actually ‘found’ Manual Diaz’ Cave before we did. . . only they didn’t know we were looking for it! Credit should also go to Eric Ritter for the article in Rock Art Papers vol 11, that initiated the interest in finding Manuel Diaz’ Cave in the first place. Finally, we must not forget the Cochimi who made their lives in this little bit of paradise and left a little of their art to tantalize us!