My sister had a Jack Terrier named Jack that looked a lot like this petroglyph, except for floppy ears. And this is how I was greeted when I visited. Bounce, bounce, bounce. I like to speculate that ancient Native American artists created petroglyphs just for fun on occasion. This might be a candidate.
Anyone who wanders the Southwest and comes across petroglyphs wonders about their origins and what they mean. Some seem so clear: a mountain sheep, a man on a horse, a rattlesnake, a coyote, a hand. While others are more remote: wiggly lines, alien looking figures, concentric circles, and galaxy-like spirals for example.
No question about this petroglyph of a hand.
Or this scorpion with its stinger, a common bane of the Southwest.
But what does this chain represent? My first thought: it was the path of a beetle that had sipped too much tequila. The information plaque told me that the more abstract designs represented the archaic cultures which would make this petroglyph over 2000 years old! (This certainly impressed me but one of my followers from Australia reminded me that Australian aboriginal rock art dates back 50,000 years.)
The grid on this rock is another example of archaic petroglyphs. There is some suggestion that the grid represents a rough map and the dots represent where people lived.
Experts say we can’t be sure about the meaning of petroglyphs. Some were created thousands of years ago and even the more recent can be several hundred years old. Since there were no written languages among the southwestern cultures of the time, we are left to speculate. Descendants of the ancient peoples provide our best clues. The Hopi, Navajo and other natives of the Southwest look backwards in time from their unique cultural perspectives and provide insights.
Certainly some petroglyphs have spiritual significance. Shamans would take drug-enhanced journeys into other worlds to learn the secrets of nature and gain control over natural elements. Some petroglyphs reflect these journeys and show the beings encountered along the way. (Either that or little green men were frequent visitors.) Shamans of the Huichol culture in western Mexico follow a similar path today.
Peggy and I bought this Huichol yarn art painting several years ago in Mexico. The Huichol are a native people who live in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico and practice a lifestyle similar to that of their ancestors. Their art represents visions their Shamans have on their mystical, peyote induced journeys. This piece represents the tribes annual journey to gather more peyote for more visions.
This sheet, conveniently provided by the Huichol man who sold us art, provides interpretations for some of the figures. The deer, for example, are messengers of the gods. People of the Huichol culture immediately recognize them as such whenever they are included in a painting. Early Christian artists provided similar types of symbolism for their non-reading flocks. We can assume that the rock art of the Southwest was also highly symbolic.
Peggy and I photographed this petroglyph I call Carrot Top and his dog in Dinosaur National Monument. It is very likely it represents a shamanistic vision. It would also make a great alien, however. Note the little legs.
Clan names, common animals, and important food sources like corn are common. Some may have even served as maps showing the layout of a village or where to find a spring. And maybe some were created for the sheer joy of creation, pounded out by an early Michelangelo of the desert carving in stone. I am hitting a 9.99 on the speculation meter here, but I like to think the artist that created the dog/coyote (or possibly horse) featured at the beginning of the post was having fun.
Petroglyphs are difficult to date but one thing is for sure: if you find a man riding a horse, it had to take place after Spaniards first introduced modern horses to North America in the 1500s.
Big Horn sheep were common in the early Southwest, so it isn’t surprising that petroglyphs representing Big Horns are found at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site and at most other sites we have visited.
I caught this family of wild Big Horn Sheep grazing in a public park near Hoover Dam. I considered the Jack Rabbit a bonus. Obviously, I was not their major concern.
The belly on this Big Horn Sheep suggests to me that this was one pregnant lady.
I thought these were deer at first but their large horns may suggest they are elk.
Another common petroglyph found throughout the Southwest is that of the lizard.
I am going with tortoise on this one. It’s another petroglyph that makes me smile.
This petroglyph of a dog/coyote/horse looks even more like Jack. He has floppy ears and is barking. (grin) So I’ll end the post here.
NEXT BLOGS: Peggy and I are heading out tomorrow for the remote corners of Nevada where there may or may not be Internet service. I’ll be gathering material for some fun blogs plus I want to finish up the last details on my book. So, I’ve decided to put my blog activities on hold for three weeks. See you all at the beginning of May with stories on the ET Highway, Area 51, Ghost Towns, and more! Plus I’ll be back checking in on your fun and interesting posts. –Curt