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Photos: Exploring California's Other Painted Cave

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Last Fall, we visited Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island. Some 90 miles west of downtown Los Angeles in the Pacific Ocean, many believe this is the largest sea cave in the world (you can fit a whole catamaran inside it!). But back on the mainland across the Santa Barbara Channel is another cave with the same name.

Chumash Painted Cave in Santa Barbara County is a small Historic State Park with a short hike to the cave. It "contains some of the finest remaining rock art created by Chumash Native Americans," notes the state.

However, what the images mean is unknown. "They were probably made for religious reasons," explains the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. "Shamans, or Chumash priests, are thought to have made these paintings to influence supernatural beings and forces to intervene in human affairs. We can only guess what these mysterious symbols meant to their creators, but they may represent mythic figures, natural phenomena, or abstract concepts."

The Chumash Indians were one of the largest tribes in California, living throughout the region from Malibu to San Luis Obispo.