It is fun to speculate on what petroglyphs mean. It can also be frustrating. What was the artist thinking when he created the above glyph? “This will make a nice blanket design.” Or how about, “Here is the path our ancestors followed to get out of the underworld.” Or, “Here’s a fun maze.” Or, “Like wow, that Datura is some serious dope.
The petroglyph is definitely a maze; follow the lines. Beyond this, speculation becomes iffy. The book by Alex Peterson, A Field Guide to Rock Symbols of the Greater Southwest, attempts to interpret the meaning of various petroglyphs. I’ve used him extensively. But Patterson provides a cover-all-contingencies disclaimer in the beginning of his book, “There is no proof that any of these meanings are correct.
For example, join Peggy in checking out the rock art below. It’s obviously an anthropomorph (human-like), given that it standing upright and has a head. The robe has various patterns or symbols on it and a fringe at the bottom. Patterson notes that similar characters appear again and again in rock art, that “they almost certainly represent the costumed principals of the sheep cult and may have been shamans.” Sheep cults and shamans– sounds intriguing, doesn’t it.
At least Peggy is looking at a human-like figure. So far in my blog, I have featured identifiable subjects including people, animals, birds, reptiles, insects and one splattered frog. Today I am going to present geometric figures. Patterson has interpretations for many of these symbols, but what about the petroglyph featured below? All I can think of is, “Okay, children, today you are going to practice making squares.”
One of the most common geometric symbols is the circle. There are circles within circles, crosses in circles, circles made of dots surrounding other circles, etc. Naturally the sun and the moon come to mind. Also ripples on water. Once again, Patterson suggests Datura may be involved. It seems that people have similar visions when they close their eyes while under the influence. Wouldn’t know.
Some of the geometric patterns may be pottery or textile designs. Modern shops through out the South West feature pottery, blankets and other items made by Native Americans featuring similar motifs.
Finally, we have petroglyphs that are almost map-like, featuring lakes, rivers, springs, hills and even farmlands.
NEXT BLOG: I will finish off the series on Three Rivers Petroglyph site with several collages of rock art. Petroglyphs are rarely found alone.