Saturday, July 20, 2013


White clay deposits, Paint Mines, Calhan, El Paso county,
Colorado. Photograph: Peter Faris, 2007.

Northeast of Colorado Springs, Colorado, 35 to 40 miles on highway #24 is found the small town of Calhan in El Paso county, Colorado. Right outside Calhan is a magical place known as Paint Mines. This is a local with a deposit of strikingly white selenite clays eroded into interesting shapes. Other exposed veins of clay have golden yellow, rose pink and purplish mauve coloring.

Colored clay deposits, Paint Mines, Calhan, El Paso County,
Colorado. Photograph: Peter Faris, 2007.

This is a place where Native Americans of the Great Plains could gather pigments for both decorative and ceremonial use. Historian Andrew Gulliford has documented this use and has written that such places were held sacred and neutral by all the tribes. “Great Plains paint mines were neutral territory, and warring tribes could gather red, yellow, and black clay in peace without attacking one another. Sacred paint sources include the paint mines near Calhan, Colorado, and in Wyoming at Sunrise and Rawlins. A Colorado cave contains every clay color needed in Ute religious ceremonies.” (Gulliford 2000:77-78)

It is likely that many white painted pictographs (as well as some other colors) in the region had their origin in the pigments collected in this amazing and beautiful location.

Note: The cave mentioned in Gulliford (2000:77-78) is probably Shield Cave which I wrote about in my posting of December 26, 2011,OCHRE PIGMENT IN PICTOGRAPHS.

Gulliford, Andrew
2000    Sacred Objects and Sacred Places: Preserving Tribal Traditions, University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

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