PCAS General Meetings

Monthly lecture meetings feature noted archaeologists and anthropologists who provide insight into a variety of topics. Lecture meetings are held at the Irvine Ranch Water District Community Room, 15500 Sand Canyon Avenue (between the I-5 and I-405) in Irvine, on the second Thursday of each month, at 7:30 pm. Meetings are free and open to the public. See vicinity and detail maps of PCAS meeting location. For additional directions, please call Scott Findlay, 714-342-2534.

Please Note: The Irvine Ranch Water District neither supports nor endorses the cause nor activities of organizations which use the district’s meeting rooms that are made available as a public service.

You are invited to join the speaker and PCAS members for dinner before the general meeting. It's an informal opportunity to visit with an acknowledged expert. We meet at 6:00 pm at a local restaurant. Please check the newsletter (left menu) for location.

Schedule and Speakers

Please note that last minute changes may occur.

 March 8, 2018 

John Michael Rafter

Coyote Hole Canyon Surpises


Coyote Hole Canyon is located near Joshua Tree Village, California, near the north entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. The approximately 3,000 foot long canyon stretches from south to north, and rock art can be found on its east and west sides on granitic boulders. Coyote Hole is the name of the natural tank at the south end of the canyon. The rock art was initially recorded in 1975 by Daniel McCarthy and the late Delcie Vuncannon. McCarthy and his team of volunteers accomplished a complete recording in 2016. 


John Rafter was first introduced to Coyote Hole Canyon and its rock art in 1990 by the late Wilson G. Turner, although their focus was on the area surrounding the mouth of the canyon. It was Delcie Vuncannon of nearby Yucca Valley who enlisted his help in investigating the rock art throughout the whole canyon from 1993 to 1996.  It was during his study there that he encountered several surprises involving the rock art, the likes of which he has not seen elsewhere. Mr. Rafter reported evidence of the canyon's several rock art alignments with significant solar events at the San Diego Rock Art Symposium in 2016 and 2017. The alignments involved both direct and indirect observations, which include unique sunlight and shadow interactions with rock art. Additional findings made between 2015 and 2017 revealed more solar alignments, and one such alignment appears to have been observed by someone or some group as recently as 2017. The apparent theme of some of the rock art and their alignments with the sun may also have ethnographic support.


John Rafter has been interested in the study of rock art since 1975 when he was introduced to it by the late Eugene Shepard, an avocational archaeologist for the San Bernardino County Museum, who continued to take him to rock art sites until his passing in 1989. During this time, the late Wilson G. Turner also took Mr. Rafter under his wings to further educate him in the study of rock art. He became Mr. Turner’s assistant field director in the Black Canyon rock art recording project, funded by Earthwatch, and he used his artistic talents to properly record the canyon’s rock art. Other rock art researchers, such as the late Arda Haenszel of San Bernardino and Delci Vuncannon of Yucca Valley, contributed to Mr. Rafter’s growing knowledge of rock art and geoglyphs. Ultimately, his study of rock art merged with his interest in archaeoastronomy, which then led him to sites he found to have astronomical connections in areas once occupied by the Luiseño and the Chemehuevi. This also led him to a fortuitous meeting with the late Carobeth Laird, author of The Chemeheuvis. Mrs. Laird, formerly the wife of John Peabody Harrington and later married her Chemehuevi informant, George Laird, took it upon herself to teach Mr. Rafter much of the Chemehuevi language and lore. After her passing in 1983, he inherited over 3,500 pages of her ethnographic notes that contained rare information on the Chemehuevi’s vast knowledge of astronomy. Mr. Rafter has organized these important bits of information into book form which is presently being reviewed by Dr. E. C. Krupp of the Griffith Observatory, one of the foremost researcher in the field of archaeoastronomy. Since 1981, John has been invited by Ken Hedges to be one of the lecturers at the San Diego Rock Art symposium, all on the subject of his many archaeoastronomical findings.

April 19, 2018 Third Thursday

Don Liponi

La Rumorosa Rock Art

The book La Rumorosa Rock Art Along the Border surveys Kumeyaay and related rock art in southern California, western Arizona, and Baja California. The survey area has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years, occupation dated from recent archaeology excavation, and is currently home to the Kumeyaay. In the areas first studied by Malcolm Rogers and Julian Hayden, the rock art has been scarcely examined and photographed. The La Rumorosa tradition of rock art is characterized by striking red, black and white pictographs which were painted in caves and on rocks and is named after a site in northeastern Baja California. Beginning about 5 years ago, a group of about 50 Native Americans and professional and avocationalist rock art researchers began meticulously searching for pictographs, the vast majority of which had not been seen in historic times. Few of these sites had ever been photographed because they are either totally or essentially faded to invisibility. With the advent of DStretch, many of these can pictographs can be brought out and made visible through digital photography. This technology requires alterations in color and composition, and often there are multiple layers of pictographs. The highlights of the first part of our study have recently been published in a 2017 book—La Rumorosa Rock Art Along the Border. The book, edited by Don Liponi, contains over 200 color photographs in full and half page. It also contains several related articles by leading archaeologists and interviews with Native Americans. Five of the 15 or so contributors are Native Americans. 


Don Liponi, Ph.D., (chemistry), has photographed and studied the southwest with such figures as Fran Barnes and Bob Begole. He volunteers with the BLM and Anza Borrego Desert State Park among other organizations.


May 10, 2018

Dr. James S. Kus

What’s New in Machu Picchu?

In this Powerpoint presentation Dr. Kus will tell the story of Hiram Bingham’s 1911 “discovery” of Machu Picchu and give an overview of the site, its importance within Andean prehistory, recent discoveries at Machu Picchu, plus how massive numbers of tourists are affecting this world-famous archaeological site.  He will also present his theory regarding what the site was used for.  This talk has been Dr. Kus’s most popular lecture on recent cruises and he has given it throughout North America for the past fifteen years as part of the Archaeological Institute of America lecture series.

Dr. James Kus is an Emeritus Professor (41 years teaching at California State University, Fresno) and a Registered Professional Archaeologist.  He has lived for many years in Peru, leading several archaeology projects there and teaching at Peru’s top university.  He has published extensively on Peruvian geography, archaeology, and history in both professional and popular media, including Encyclopedia Britannica.  Since retiring seven years ago, he has led more than a dozen tours to Peru (for the Archaeological Institute of America, Smithsonian Journeys, universities and private groups) and lectured on vessels sailing around South America, along West Coast Mexico and Central America, and through the Panama Canal.

June 21, 2018 Third Thursday

Dr. E.C. Krupp

Uplifted and Transported: Encounters at Burro Flats

The Burro Flats Painted Cave Complex, one of the most elaborate and significant prehistoric rock art sites in California, hosts fetching winter-solstice and summer-solstice light-and-shadow events. E.C. Krupp was present for their discovery in 1979/1980, and between then and 2004, he systematically monitored the astronomical performance of the painted rock shelter and other nearby zones on 37 visits and also assessed the impact of the 17 January 1994 Northridge earthquake on the site. Dr. Krupp will illustrate and describe the astronomical dimensions of the site, including details he's learned in the field since the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, where it's located, closed. This Chumash/Tongva archaeological site, near Chatsworth, California, is just a ridge away from the stands on which the huge moon-rocket and Space Shuttle engines were test fired. The test stands and the Burro Flats Painted Cave site, in fact, comprise the only place on earth where our modern world heritage in space converges with the prehistoric reach for the sky. The rock art and the test stands make Burro Flats irreplaceably significant in the history of space exploration, in the history of NASA, in the history of California, in American history, and in the history of the world.

E.C. Krupp is an astronomer and Director of Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. He attended Pomona College as an undergraduate majoring in physics/astronomy (B.A., 1966). He received his M.A. (1968) and Ph.D. (1972) in astronomy at U.C.L.A.

Since 1973, Dr. Krupp has been recognized internationally for his work on ancient, prehistoric, and traditional astronomy and on the relationship between astronomy and culture. He is the author and editor of five books on this subject and has personally visited, studied, and photographed more than 2100 ancient, historic, and prehistoric sites throughout the world, most recently in Myanmar. He has also written hundreds of articles for the general reader on astronomy and culture, dozens of research papers, and four children's books on astronomy. He has received several prominent awards from the American Institute of Physics, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Pomona College, and other astronomical and civic organizations.

Dr. Krupp began his Griffith Observatory career as a part-time planetarium lecturer in 1970 and has been its Director and an agent of public astronomy since 1974. He led the Observatory’s $93-million restoration, renovation and expansion, a project he conceived and shepherded through design, fundraising, construction, reactivation, and return to space after a five-year close.