The sleepy town of Newberry Springs, or Water as it once was known, lies in relative obscurity east of Barstow along Highway 40. Its drowsy present belies a bustling past. Reliable springs made this area a mecca for prehistoric Indians, and later for pioneers traveling along the ancient east-west path from the Colorado River to the Pacific coast. Just south of the town, nestled in a box canyon high in the Newberry Mountains, is Newberry Cave. It's a shy cave, hiding its impressive entrance behind a huge boulder. For native Americans it was a place of power and magic. No one knows exactly what was going on there some 3,000 years ago, but it was probably related to hunting rituals and preparations. This was not a permanent dwelling spot, but one that was frequented regularly for brief periods over a long span of time. Eventually, as time passed, these visits became less regular and then ceased. In modern times, relic hunters found and periodically looted the cave for atlatl shafts and points. Finally, in 1953, the San Bernardino Museum Association excavated the cave. It produced a wealth of material. Bones of an extinct Shasta ground sloth found in the cave were radiocarbon dated to 12,000 years ago. Some of the Indian cultural artifacts recovered include over 1,000 fragments of atlatl shafts, 78 projectile points, split elderberry twig figurines, pigment stones, sandals, cordage, fire drill sets, stone and bone tools and quartz crystals. The oldest artifacts have a radiocarbon date of 6,000 years ago. In addition, pictographs in green, white, red and black were found just inside the cave entrance. They are unique and do not match any known forms previously found in California.
We were hooked! Newberry Cave and its mysterious pictographs had to be found. Pictographs are not that common in the Mojave Desert, let alone 3,000 year old multi-colored ones that are of a unique style! We wanted to see them and photograph them. The hunt for Newberry Cave was on! Finding it took a bit of detective work, luck, and some hiking. The archaeological community is not forthcoming with locations to sites. Many people do seem to have a desire to deface and destroy, so their caution is understandable. There are plenty of clues out there, though. We enjoyed the process of sleuthing out the location. If you really want to find the cave, you can. In the meantime, how about a virtual trip? If you're up for it, it's just a mouse click away! Try the link below for photos from our discovery visit.