Pretty Weird Stuff… Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

Butterfly petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

A lot of the rock art at the Three Rivers Petroglyph site is simply fun, such as this butterfly.

Is there a whale among the Three River petroglyphs? How about a ship? Or an octopus? The fish isn’t so strange, nor are the buggy bugs. But how did the ocean life end up in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert? Maybe I am simply suffering from an overactive imagination brought on by staring at thousands of petroglyphs. I can guarantee I haven’t been imbibing in the Datura used by Shaman to create altered states. That stuff is dangerous. (Actually, it can be deadly.) The residents of Jamestown once fed it to British soldiers in 1676 and knocked them out of commission for 11 days. Afterwards, the plant was named Jimson Weed, after Jamestown.

Possible whale petroglyph at the Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

It looks like a whale to me… or at least a whale of a fish.

Octopus petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

And what’s with this octopus. Did the Jornada people travel to the ocean?

Ship petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

I guess if you have a whale and an octopus, it is only natural to have a ship with sails. Check out the guy jumping around in the back.

Possible seal petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

This looks suspiciously like a seal, minus the hind legs.

Fish petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

Okay, I’ll buy a fish petroglyph. Not sure about the circle. Maybe the fish is being served up on a platter.

Datura, also known as Jimson Weed

Datura, a beautiful but dangerous plant. I took this photo on the American River Parkway in Sacramento.

Buggy eyed petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

What you might run into after consuming a few too many Datura seeds.

Arrow petroglyphs at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

Or possibly you might meet a pair of arrows with attitude.

NEXT BLOG: Snakes, lizards and a few more bugs.




Newspaper Rock: 2000 Years of Indian Rock Art… All the News that’s Fit to Peck

Newspaper Rock is filled with Indian rock-art that has been created over a period of 2000 years. This is my version of the headlines.

Sometime around when the historic Jesus was pounding the pavement of Jerusalem seeking recruits, Native Americans began pecking away at Newspaper Rock, creating petroglyphs. What they were trying to say is still something of a question mark. Guesses range from the mundane to the mysterious.

For example, was the guy shooting the buck in the rear a mystical symbol to give the hunter luck, or was it a recording of the event. “Shot big buck. Everyone is invited over for venison stew.”

Some images appear quite clear in intent. This Native American in sitting on a horse and using his bow and arrow to shoot a big buck. Hollywood would call it an action shot.

Like modern graffiti, some rock-art was likely meant to say, “I was here” or “This is the territory of clan such and such…” a no trespassing and no hunting sign. Enter at your own risk.

One interesting question is whether there was any purposeful art in rock-art? Did the creator peck away for the sheer joy of pecking away and creating a masterpiece?

In Navajo the rock is called Tse’ Hane or “rock that tells story.”

We can’t be sure when the individual petroglyphs were made. As I’ve noted before, Indian rock-art is very hard to date. The relative thickness of the rock varnish, the use of bow and arrows, the availability of horses, and the petroglyphs’ resemblance to other rock-art being created in the same era are all used as clues.

The National Historic Marker at the site notes that Archaic, Basket Maker, Fremont, Pueblo and Navajo cultures added their stories to the rock. In more modern times, pioneers even became involved.

Unfortunately, the tradition continues today. All too often people can’t resist adding their own names, marring and destroying the original petroglyphs at various sites. Think of spray-painting your name on the stained glass windows of the Cathedral Notre-Dame in Paris for comparison.

What’s fascinating about Newspaper Rock is the sheer number of petroglyphs included and the time frame over which they were created. I am also impressed with the variety of animals represented. For example, I can’t recall seeing flying squirrels or rabbit tracks in other rock-art sites Peggy and I have visited.

Newspaper Rock is located on Utah’s highway 211 which serves as the south entrance to Canyonlands National Park and is south of Moab. The following photos are a few examples of what you can expect to see. I take total responsibility for the interpretations.

A flying squirrel sails across the sky at Newspaper Rock.

Big foot, bear foot, bird foot and a screaming ladder.

What little kids expect to find hiding under their bed at night.

A bow-legged trick rider?

A bow-legged trick rider? Yeehaw!

This represents the richness of wildlife found on Newspaper Rock. I see deer, a buffalo, big horn sheep, a bear and a lizard. I don’t have a clue what the long creature on the left with the strange legs is. Any guesses?

I’ve included this photo to illustrate how crowded the petroglyphs are on Newspaper Rock. Note the rabbit tracks working their way upward on the upper-right center.


Bear with me. (grin)

A picture of the complete Newspaper Rock site. The fence has been added to discourage people from defacing the petroglyphs.

My favorite photo. I like the contrast between the orange sandstone and dark rock varnish.

Cub Creek Petroglyphs… Dinosaur National Monument

Like much Indian rock-art, Cub Creek petroglyphs in Dinosaur National Monument raise intriguing questions. It would be fascinating to know the story behind this unique anthropomorphic figure. What do the lines stretching toward the sky represent?

Peggy and I crossed over the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument and followed the road toward the cabin of Josie Basset Morris, the tough old pioneer woman who had worked her way through five husbands and finally discovered she preferred living alone.

The river, mountains and distant vistas entertained us along the way. Two prominent landmarks, Elephant Toes and Turtle Rock, lived up to the names the early settlers had bestowed on them. I found the big toes particularly amusing.

Elephant Toes Rock in Dinosaur National Monument along the Cub Creek Road. 

While not  as humorous as Elephant Toes, the turtle of Turtle Rock is easy to see. Both Native Americans and pioneers were quick to see and name familiar figures in the landscape.

The true surprise on our way to Josie’s, however, was the Indian rock-art. Huge six-foot lizards had been pecked into the cliff faces high above the Cub Creek Valley. One can only wonder if the Native Americans of the Fremont Culture had somehow made the correlation between dinosaur bones found throughout Dinosaur National Monument and really big lizards. Or did small lizards so prominent in desert environment serve as the models?

Our van, Quivera, provides perspective on how high up in the cliffs the Cub Creek petroglyphs are.

Giant, six-foot long, rock-art lizards work their way up the rock face at Cub Creek. Are they representative of the dinosaur bones Native Americans found at Dinosaur National Monument?

Or did the giant petroglyph lizards represent the small lizards so prominent in the arid regions of the West?

Numerous other petroglyphs also demanded our attention. We even found a partial image of Kokopelli, the hunch backed flute player found in ancient rock-art from Mexico to Canada and whose image has been applied on everything from jewelry, to blankets, to pottery in today’s gift shops throughout the West. Kokopelli was both a musician and trickster god, but mainly he was a fertility deity known for his for his bad behavior. Watch out fair maidens one and all.

My wife Peggy admires a small section of the numerous petroglyphs found at the Indian rock-art site on Cub Creek in Dinosaur National Monument.

A partial petroglyph of the flute playing Kokopelli is found at the Cub Creek Indian rock-art site. Odds are he is luring young maidens with his music.

Geometric forms are common in rock-art. This galaxy-like representation caught my attention.

I selected this particular photo because it demonstrates how dark rock varnish has been chipped away in the petroglyph process to reveal the lighter colored rock underneath.

An early day smiley? This guy appears to me to be all mouth and legs but it’s creator likely had something else in mind.

Greetings Earthlings. Check out the dangling ear rings and necklace on this guy. Jewelry apparently was quite important to early Native Americans and may have represented an individuals importance or clan. You will probably note the prominent anatomy as well. Genitalia was often included on Indian rock-art until the Spanish Missionaries informed the natives that such display was sinful.

I call this petroglyph Big Boy.