Talking Stone

Rock Art of the Cosos

Hidden away in the canyons of a highly restricted military base on the edge of the Mojave Desert is the largest concentration of rock art in North America, possibly in the world. Images of animals, shamans, and puzzling abstract forms were pecked and painted on stone over thousands of years by a now long-gone culture. Talking Stone: Rock Art of the Cosos is a multivocal investigation of this art.

Acclaimed cinematographer Paul Goldsmith takes the reader on a visual journey through this limited access area with more than 160 stunning color photographs. The book is structured around Goldsmith’s treks into the remote desert canyons and his meetings with archaeologists, Native Americans, a psychologist, an artist, bow hunters, and the commanding officer in charge of the military base. The result is a visually striking book that gives the viewer a personal and visceral experience of this enigmatic art.

Includes 160 color photographs.

Paul Goldsmith has been a filmmaker for 40 years. He is an elected member of the American Society of Cinematographers and has received a number of awards for his work, including an Emmy for the National Geographic documentary, Don’t Say Goodbye; a film he photographed, When We Were Kings, won an Oscar. His interest in Native American history was piqued when he worked as director of photography for the PBS series “We Shall Remain.” He is on the board of the California Rock Art Foundation. 

Table of Contents:

1. The Beginning of the Search
2. Who Made These Images?
3. The Atlatl
4. Bighorn Sheep
5. A Woman’s Site
6. Newberry Cave
7. Abstract Images
8. Patterned-Body Anthropomorphs
9. Side Trip to a More Recent Site
10. A Native American’s Perspective
11. Dating the Petroglyphs
12. The Anthropologists’ Hypothesis
13. The Return of the Bighorn
Author’s Note

Praise and Reviews:

“This book does a lovely job of showing the range of variability in rock art in the Cosos and the setting for that rock art. The minimal text keeps the attention on the imagery and photos. One can take great pleasure in simply looking at the rock art.”
—Amy Gilreath, Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc.

“This is a very personal take on the enigmatic rock art of the Coso Range. It’s a book built around images—spectacular pictures of some very sophisticated petroglyphs. The images tell the story.” 
—David Hurst Thomas, Department of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History

“A visual delight. . . . Goldsmith supplements these photos with a narrative that is both personal and well informed. . . . The book will delight everyone with an interest in Native American rock art.”—American Archaeology

“A visually inviting meditation on a significant rock art landscape in Southern California.... Successfully evokes the sense of awe and reverence that diverse peoples feel when experiencing ancient rock art and could serve as a useful educational resource with the potential to reach audiences beyond academia.”
Canadian Journal of Archaeology