A pictograph site that could date back to the 1700s is hidden on the side of a large boulder in one of the most secluded places in San Diego County, Native American art experts say.
Dozens of drawings cover the 26-foot-wide rock in the heart of a massive former land grant called Rancho Guejito in northeastern San Diego County. One drawing appears to be a conquistador raising a sword and wearing an armored chest plate.
The drawings could be analogous to Kumeyaay paintings in Baja California determined to have been painted around the same time the conquistadors would have been around.
“The hand implement could be a sword raised in dramatic display,” they said in the report, noting that the body started out as a stick figure but was broadened in the torso area, possibly to give the impression of armor.
The sprawling Rancho Guejito property has changed little over the last few centuries, since Spain’s King Charles III directed Gaspar de Portola in 1769 into what is now present-day California. Accompanied by a group of Franciscans led by Junipero Serra, the plan was to establish a string of missions along the coast from San Diego to Monterey Bay.
One of the prime reasons for creating the mission system was to convert the region’s indigenous population to Christianity. Anywhere from 133,000 to more than 700,000 Native Americans — representing more than 100 tribes — were contacted by the Spanish over the next 50 years, according to historical records.
Rupp said De Portola’s march up the coast, from 1769 to 1770, would have taken place about eight miles west of where the drawings were found on Rancho Guejito.
The next step in documenting and studying the pictographs will be carbon dating, to determine when the art was created, Rupp said. Freers and Hedges also have recommended that experts assess the area and search for signs of a village.
“Usually villages are associated with rock art within a quarter-mile,” Freers said. “This is too remarkable to be just a stop on a trail.”