Pass the Datura, Please… I Want to Make a Square.

Geometrical forms are often found in rock art, and the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site is no exception. The body of this horse with its ears back and tail sticking out is filled with squares. I’m wondering if its pose is a result of eating Datura, whose seed are represented by the two circles. Or maybe it just spotted the horse-sized snake off to the right. My ears would be back and tail sticking out too.

 

Datura, one of Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite flowers to paint, is a strong hallucinogen, and dangerous. Shamans of the western US often used it to induce visions and travel on their journeys into other worlds. It seems quite likely that many of the stranger petroglyphs found at Three Rivers were inspired by its use. There is also a theory that many of the geometric patterns found in rock art sites throughout the world are hard-wired into the brained and are discovered through the use of hallucinogenic drugs.

Datura, also known as Jimsyn Weed.

Datura, a beautiful but dangerous plant is also known as Jimson Weed. I took this photo along the American River Parkway in Sacramento.

I’ve always been amused by how Datura earned its Jimson (Jamestown) Weed name. Apparently the residents of Jamestown fed the plant to British soldiers in 1676 who had been sent to quell a rebellion by the townsfolk. One of the soldiers spent his time trying to blow a feather up into the air while another sat naked in a corner and made faces at them. The other soldiers were similarly effected.

Following are a few of the petroglyphs we found at Three Rivers that featured geometric forms and were perhaps inspired by the use of Datura.

This particular petroglyph at Three Rivers reminded me of a spiral galaxy. Maybe it was supposed to.

This large petroglyph was laid out like a maze.

Another large rock petroglyph. This one of squares with one of the squares filled with further squares.

Another maze like petroglyph. Following the spiral takes you to the center of this large circle.

Lacking the geometric look of the above petroglyphs, this may be a ladder leading down to a map of personal crop sites. Many Native Americans lived in cliff dwellings and would travel by ladder to farms below. I wonder if the footprint isn’t saying ‘walk this way.’

Here’s a pattern that you might expect to find in a modern-day Navajo blanket.

Okay, I’m thinking Datura here. The wavy lines might actually represent a river, but the eyes? (On the top maps I use backpacking, they would represent two depressions in the land.)

Circles are common at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. This may represent the sun.

And I conclude my posts on Three Rivers with what might be another candidate for Datura influence.

NEXT POST: Continuing my series on petroglyphs, I’ll travel up to Sego Canyon in Utah. Since I am out backpacking in the Sierra’s,  I’ll respond to comments on my return.

 

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Rocks Crawling with Snakes… The Three Rivers Petroglyph Site of New Mexico

There are lots of snakes found among the rocks at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in New Mexico— rock art snakes. This is a rattlesnake. Check out the triangular, pit viper head. Also note that the break in the rock was used by the artist to provide a 3-D effect, which was a technique used frequently by Three Rivers artists..

Panamint Rattlesnake in Death Valley.

We found his cousin in the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley. Peggy took its photo out the window of our truck. I thought it would look great coiled up with its tail buzzing and was taking my seatbelt off when Peggy did some rattling of her own, buzzing up the road, thwarting my desire to get up close and personal.

 

Peggy and I have returned from another backpacking trip, a little sore but fine otherwise. We travelled through a gorgeous virgin forest near our home in mountains we can see from our patio. Giant trees including Red Cedar, White Pine, Sugar Pine and Douglas Fir provided shade. It’s Big Foot country and we kept a sharp lookout. And, indeed, we may have found some proof of the big fellow’s existence! Be sure to catch my next post. But for now, back to the snakes of the Three River’s Petroglyph Site.

 

Bad snakes have been giving good snakes a bum rap for eons. It all started when the Biblical Eve bit into the apple she had obtained from the proverbial snake in the tree and realized that she was naked. It must have been a shocking discovery. Snakes have been pummeled, stomped, cut up, diced, crushed, shot, speared and smashed ever since.

Actually, there is no such thing as a bad snake; there are only snakes that have had a bad childhood and will bite you if you step on them, or wake them up when they are sunbathing on their favorite rock, or lollygagging in a scummy pond. They don’t really mean to kill you; it’s a waste of good venom. Normally, we are too big to eat. Although there was that huge boa that lived in the lake next to my house in Liberia…

I’ve had numerous snake encounters over the years from the rainforests of West Africa to the rattlesnake country of the American West. Believe me when I say there is nothing like stepping on a log and having it come alive with the buzz of rattlesnakes. I once set an Olympic record for the standing long jump when that happened.

The Jornada Mogollon people of the Three Rivers Petroglyph site must have had a special relationship with snakes. There are numerous snake glyphs scattered throughout the area— and these are BIG snakes with BIG heads and jaws. “The better to bite you with my dear.” I suspect the snakes were considered sacred and worshipped, which is what the nearby Navajo and Hopi people did.

 

Another rattler. Obviously, the artist wanted to emphasize the business part of the snake— its head.

In one place, we found several snakes slithering down the rocks, which was a bit creepy-crawly!

Rattlesnakes aren’t the only poisonous denizens of the desert recorded by the petroglyphs found at Three Rivers. There are also spiders and scorpions. There was a good reason that cowboys of the Old West always shook out their boots in the morning before putting them on. On the more benign side of the equation, there are a number of rock art lizards.

For the record, Peggy and I always shake out our outdoor shoes before putting them on as well. We’ve never found a scorpion, but spiders are common, and lizards. Peggy once wore her boots for an hour wondering why her foot had developed a toe twitch. She took it off and a lizard hit the ground— running. It still may be.

Scorpions pack a considerable wallop in their tails. It’s best to keep out of their reach.

I’m assuming that this guy is a spider, although it could use some more legs. Artistic license, perhaps? Or maybe it’s a beetle.

We’ve found petroglyphs of lizards in almost every rock art site we have visited throughout the Southwest. This one came with a crooked tail.

This is one of our local lizards that live around our house and think of our shoes as a great place to hang out. It’s my last photo of the day.

 

NEXT POST: A Land of Forest Giants… And Bigfoot.

 

Nice Kitty, But Why Is Your Tail Over Your Back… The Three Rivers Petroglyph Site: Part 3

There are several mountain lion petroglyphs at the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. Each one has his tail bent up over his back. I don’t have a clue why. And what’s with the arrow?

 

Peggy and I are still out wandering. So this is my third post revisiting the Three Rivers’s Petroglyph Site in southern New Mexico.

Hunting wild animals for meat provided an essential source of food for the majority of mankind’s existence. While the Jornada Mogollon people at the Three Rivers’ Petroglyph site cultivated corn, hunting remained a vital activity.

Arrows can often be found sticking out of Big Horn Mountain Sheep in petroglyphs. They were a major source of food in the South West.

The Big Horn Sheep petroglyphs at Three Rivers were some of the most sophisticated I’ve seen. It’s rare to see bodies filled in.

A Big Horn head with geometric patterns.

I took this picture of a Big Horn ram in Nevada. He was wondering if he should object to his photo being taken.

Success meant learning as much as they could about the animals that inhabited their desert world: where they lived, what they ate, where they drank, and what trails they used were all important.  The Jornada were excellent trackers, able to read in a few scuffed tracks the story of who had wandered down a trail and what they were doing.

Tracking was a vital skill of Native Americans in hunting, or in being hunted. This was probably the track of a mountain lion.

Definitely human!

There was a close, almost sacred, relationship between the hunter and the hunted. Clans assumed animal names and young people went on vision quests to discover which animal might serve as personal guides. Shamans put on animal cloaks and assumed animal personalities. The gods and the spirits of animals were both honored. (It helped assure they would be around at dinner time.)

Not surprisingly, the petroglyphs found at Three Rivers reflect the importance of the various animals in the life of the Jornada. We discovered numerous bighorn sheep and an unexpected number of cougars. There were also horses, rabbits and coyotes. Horses provided a radical new form of transportation; coyotes were known for their trickery; and rabbits provided an easy food supply.

I featured this cougar in my last post. Again, note the tail over the back.

Another big cat with proud tail.

This cougar came up to sniff us at a wildlife sanctuary in southern Oregon. He looked quite friendly but it was one of those instances I was glad I was on the other side of the fence.

I suspect he would have liked to have had this rabbit in the enclosure with him. Everyone, it seems, likes to eat rabbits. They would have been another important food source for the Jornada.

These two long-eared Jack Rabbits (hares) stopped by our house for a visit a couple of weeks ago. They wanted to know if we had a coyote free zone. I couldn’t make any promises so they moved on.

The arrival of the Spaniards to the New World in the 1500s meant that the Jornada had a dramatic new form of transportation available.

I’ll finish up with this happy songster. (Or maybe it’s not so happy. That could be an arrow.) My next post on Three Rivers is for the birds.

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Forget Waldo. Where’s the Petroglyph? Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

Groups of petroglyphs found at Three Rivers Site, New Mexico.

Petroglyphs are often found in the same location. How many can you find in the above photo? My answer is at the bottom of the blog.

When you find one petroglyph, you will almost always find more, frequently on the same rock. There is a general rule of thumb that Peggy and I follow: The more you look, the more you will find. Sometimes the petroglyphs were created at the same time and were tied together. More often, individual glyphs are added over time– in some cases over a period stretching out for a thousand years. Or more. Why waste a good rock?

The search is endlessly fascinating because you never know what’s going to pop up, or where. You may find hastily sketched glyphs for hours and then come on someone’s masterpiece, hidden away in a rock crevice or high up on a cliff.

Today, I am going to finish off my blogs about the Three Rivers Petroglyph site in New Mexico with photos featuring groups of petroglyphs on the same rock or nearby rocks. See how many you can find and let your imagination run wild with what they mean.

Petroglyph grouping at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

There may be even more petroglyphs here than in the first photograph. Check out the rock crevice behind the star. (Can you find the star? grin) I like the trail sneaking off over the rock on the right.

Petroglyph grouping at Thrre Rivers Petroglyph site in New Mexico.

Here’s where interpretation can be fun. From left to right: Is the frog/lizard sticking its tongue out to catch a fly on top of the rock? Then there is the upside down man figure with the feet of a windmill. Next to it is the glow in the dark, Datura yoyo followed by an impressive bear foot, or is it a scared guy with his hair sticking out? And what’s with the turkey foot in the face of the Thunderbird/eagle? Did you catch the bear foot on top of the rock at the right?

Petroglyph grouping at Three rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

Hard to get more jumbled than this. Check out the lizard on the left with the X-ray eyes. Bottom left shows a guy shooting a bow and arrow. I like the Bighorn Sheep climbing the steep mountain.

Cloud, lightning and sun petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in New Mexico.

I’ve included this rock art because of the interesting petroglyph in the middle. Think of it as a weather forecast: It’s partly cloudy with a chance of thunder storms. The cloud with lightning is fairly common. But this one has the sun peeking out behind.

Milky Way petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in New Mexico.

I’ll conclude with what I am calling a starry, starry night with Van Gogh in mind. At first, I thought river, but the more I looked at it, I decided the little specks were stars and the stream was the Milky Way. Maybe, maybe not– but it seems a fitting image to end this series with. Oh yeah, I’m pretty sure the round object is a UFO.

BTW: I found 15 petroglyphs in the first photo.

NEXT BLOG: The journey to Alaska begins. First up I will introduce you to Quivera the Van– our faithful traveling companion. Question: Could you and a companion live in 120 square feet for four years?

Sheep Cults and Ancient Mazes… The Rock Art of Three Rivers

Petroglyph maze at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

Set off by distant mountains, this petroglyph appears to be a maze.

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.

Peggy Mekemson checks out a petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

We often find petroglyphs carved on difficult to reach places. If it is difficult for us, imagine what it must have been like for the rock artist.

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.”

Petroglyph of squares at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

Plans for a subdivision?

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.

Solid circles surrounded by a circle with dots at Three Rivers Petroglyph site. Possibly influenced by Datura use.

Almost everywhere we looked at Three Rivers Petroglyph site we found circles. Many had outer circles made up of dots.

Petroglyph circle with cross found at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

A number of the circle also feature crosses of various types. This was one of the more intriguing.

Circle petroglyph with possible sun at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

I also found this interesting. My first thought is the sun.

Large spiral circle at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in New Mexico.

This is the most impressive circle petroglyph Peggy and I found at Three Rivers. It is actually a spiral. Start at the center and work outward. Which brings me to…

Spiral petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

… this spiral, which led me to think a bout a spiral galaxy. Could the Jornada have been in contact with little green men from outer space. Naw…….

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

Various interpretations. One is about a four eyed insect standing manlike who is bitten on the testicles by a sidewinder rattlesnake, a fate which would make any guy’s eyes go buggy.

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.

Geometric petroglyph found at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

This repetition of pattern suggests a design that might be used for a blanket.

 

Geometric petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

Here’s another. This petroglyph might represent a butterfly.

Finally, we have petroglyphs that are almost map-like, featuring lakes, rivers, springs, hills and even farmlands.

Petroglyph found at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in New Mexico.

Who knows? Climb down the ladder to the crops at the bottom? (grin) Could the foot print on the right be saying “Walk this way?”

Three Rivers Petroglyph site rock art.

On of my favorites at Three Rivers. Peterson says the wavy lines represent water but what’s with the square eyes.

Horse petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

This captures it all: a cute horse with extended tail and big feet, Datura driven circles, and a simple pattern of squares. There is even a snake in the grass. Maybe that accounts for the horse’s stance.

NEXT BLOG: I will finish off the series on Three Rivers Petroglyph site with several collages of rock art. Petroglyphs are rarely found alone.

 

The Slithery Serpents of the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

Rattlesnake petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in southern New Mexico.

I could rave about how this fellows curves follow the rock. In fact I am raving about it. Also check out the serpent hear on this guy and his buzzy tail. Rattlesnake for sure.

Bad snakes have been giving good snakes a bum rap for eons. It all started when the Biblical Eve bit into the apple she had obtained from the proverbial snake in the tree and realized she was naked. It must have been a shocking discovery. Snakes have been pummeled, stomped, cut up, diced, crushed, shot, speared and smashed ever since.

Actually, there is no such thing as a bad snake; there are only snakes that have had a bad childhood and will bite you if you step on them or wake them up when they are sunbathing on their favorite rock or lollygagging in a scummy pond. They don’t really mean to kill you; it’s a waste of good venom. Normally, we are too big to eat.

I’ve had numerous snake encounters over the years from the rainforests of the Amazon and West Africa to the rattlesnake country of the American West. Believe me when I say there is nothing like stepping on a log and having it come alive with the buzz of rattlesnakes. I once set an Olympic record for the standing long jump when that happened. Another time, I almost sat on a rattler when I was going to the bathroom in the woods. I couldn’t poop for days.

The Jornada Mogollon people of the Three Rivers Petroglyph site must have had a special relationship with snakes. There are numerous snake glyphs scattered throughout the area… and these are BIG snakes with BIG heads and jaws. “The better to bite you with my dear.” I suspect the snakes were considered sacred and worshipped, which is what the nearby Navajo and Hopi people did.

These long snakes slithering down the rocks are worthy of an Indiana Jones movie.

These long snakes slithering down the rocks are worthy of an Indiana Jones movie.

Petroglyph snake with large head in Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

In the world of big snake heads, this Three Rivers serpent would be a record holder.

Rattlesnakes weren’t the only poisonous denizens of the desert recorded in the petroglyphs of Three Rivers. There were also spiders and scorpions.  On the more benign side of the equation, there were numerous rock art lizards.

Spider petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

I think this large, scary bug is probably a spider.

Scorpion petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

My money would be on a scorpion here. Check out the rounded end of his tail and the two pincher claws up front.

A number of petroglyphs at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in New Mexico.

This is where we found the scorpion. I suspect that his modern-day cousins are lurking in the rocks surrounding him.

Lizards are considered much more benign than snakes, spiders and scorpions. For example, my eight year old grandson Ethan caught several during his recent visit.

Lizards are considered much more benign than snakes, spiders and scorpions. For example, my eight year old grandson Ethan caught several during his recent visit. He was only chomped on a couple of times.

A petroglyph lizard foud at the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.

Pregnant petroglyph lizard?

Petroglyph lizard at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico

A well-fed petroglyph lizard?

This frog doesn’t belong here along with the reptiles and bugs but he absolutely had to go somewhere.

Frog petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

Gotta love this guy.

NEXT BLOG: Patterns in the rock. We will look at some of the many geometric patterns found among the petroglyphs and guess at their meaning.

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.

 

 

 

Thunderbird and Eagle Rule the Skies… Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

Close up of Bald Eagle

One look at this magnificent bird I photographed two weeks ago tells the story of why the eagle was regarded as sacred by Native Americans. This eagle is located at a wildlife sanctuary close to my home in southern Oregon. It was named Jefferson until it laid an egg. Now she is called Mrs. Jefferson.

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

I think that the bird petroglyph on the left that Peggy and I found at Three Rivers is immediately recognizable as an eagle.

The mighty eagle may have ruled the skies of southern New Mexico but it was the Thunderbird that ruled the heavens. A flap of its wings would gather clouds and send thunder bouncing off the far mountains. Lightning would shoot out of its eyes. The Thunderbird existed in numerous Native American and First Nation cultures.Peggy and I have found images  from New Mexico to Alaska.

Thunderbird petroglyphs at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

A pair of Thunderbirds decorate a rock at Three Rivers. Compare it with the First Nation totem pole below that Peggy and I photographed on Vancouver Island in Canada.

Totem pole Thunderbird on Vancouver Island

A First Nation totem pole Thunderbird Peggy and I found on Vancouver Island.

Petroglyph of a Thunderbird at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

I find this petroglyph of what I assume is a Thunderbird both strange and powerful.

Another version of a Thunderbird found at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

Another version of a Thunderbird found at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

Turkeys, roadrunners, and even ducks can also be found among the petroglyphs of the Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

Petroglyph of roadrunner and snake at Three Rivers petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

A roadrunner and its dinner. This Three Rivers petroglyph shows a roadrunner with one of its favorite meals, a snake.

Possible bird head petroglyph at the Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

Is this a petroglyph of a bird’s head with its beak stretching out to the left? If so, it must be another work of the Rembrandt of the Jornada.

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

This petroglyph strikes me as either a duck or goose. Note how the artist has taken advantage of the contour of the rock.

Turkey petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

A quickly pecked turkey?

Wild turkey on Upper Applegate River in southern Oregon

A backyard turkey. I caught this guy strutting his stuff to impress several hens who had gathered in our back yard. They ignored him.

Strange petroglyph from Three Rivers Petroglyph site in Southern New Mexico.

A really weird turkey? The head seems right but the clawed hands are something else. If this is a turkey, he has passed into the realms of the gods. On the other hand, if you have ever had a turkey attack you, as I did when photographing its chicks, this is a close approximation.

NEXT BLOG: What is a whale petroglyph doing in the desert?

Big Horns and Sharp Claws… Animal Petroglyphs at Three Rivers

Bighorn sheep petroglyph with arrows at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

Bighorn sheep were a major source of food for the Jornada Mogollon people of New Mexico and for Native Americans throughout the South West. Animals are often found with arrows sticking out.

Hunting wild animals for meat provided an essential source of food for the majority of mankind’s existence. While the Jornada Mogollon people at the Three Rivers’ Petroglyph site cultivated corn, hunting remained a vital activity.

Success meant learning as much as they could about the animals that inhabited their desert world: where they lived, what they ate, where they drank, and what trails they used were all important.  The Jornada were excellent trackers, able to read in a few scuffed tracks the story of who had wandered down a trail and what they were doing.

Petroglyph bear track at Thrre Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

A number of petroglyph tracks are found at the Three Rivers site. This big fellow is a bear.

Human foot print found at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in Southern New Mexico.

A human footprint for comparison. Human hand and foot print petroglyphs are relatively common.

Possible petroglyph of cougar print with claws extended at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

I am not sure what these wicked claws belonged to but possibly it was a cougar with its claws extended.

There was a close, almost sacred, relationship between the hunter and the hunted. Clans assumed animal names and young people went on vision quests to discover which animal might serve as personal guides. Shaman put on animal cloaks and assumed animal personalities. The gods and the spirits of animals were both honored. (It helped assure they would be around at dinner time.)

Some animals were more important than others. Bighorn sheep were a primary food source throughout the South West. Cougars and bears were large predators demanding respect.  The arrival of Spaniards in the 1500s meant the arrival of horses.

Not surprisingly, the petroglyphs found at Three Rivers reflect the importance of the various animals in the life of the Jornada. We discovered numerous bighorn sheep and an unexpected number of cougars. There were also horses, rabbits and coyotes. Horses provided a radical new form of transportation; coyotes were known for their trickery; and rabbits provided an easy food supply.

I took this photo of a bighorn sheep near Lake Mead in southern Nevada. He had come down from the mountains to take advantage of the green grass of a small park.

I took this photo of a bighorn sheep near Lake Mead in southern Nevada. He had come down from the mountains to take advantage of the green grass of a small park. His arch rival was his reflection in an aluminum garage door. The owner had a hard time convincing the insurance agent that his door had been smashed in by the enraged animal.

Bighorn sheep petroglyph founf at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

Similar horns are displayed on this Three Rivers Petroglyph. Note: It is not unusual to find geometric designs incorporated into animal petroglyphs.

Bighorn sheep petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

I thought this bighorn sheep petroglyph at Three Rivers was a sophisticated work of art. Did the Jornada have their Rembrandts?

Mountain lion photo

Peggy and I took our grandkids to a wildlife sanctuary last week and found this curious mountain lion that sniffed our five-year old. Nice kitty.

Mountain lion petroglyph found at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

Peggy and I found a number of mountain lion petroglyphs at Three Rivers, which suggested that the cougar played an important role in the lives of the Jornada people.

Another mountain lion petroglyph. As to why the big cats have there tail extended over their backs, I don't have a clue. Any ideas?

Another mountain lion petroglyph. As to why the big cats have their tails extended over their backs, I don’t have a clue. Any ideas?

I used this petroglyph in my last blog. This photo provides an interesting view of the whole rock and the other petroglyphs.

I used this petroglyph in my last blog. This photo provides an interesting view of the whole rock.

Photo of Coyote in Death Valley near Scotty's Castle.

Coyote played an important role in Native American mythology as a Trickster. I took this photo in Death Valley.

Petroglyph of coyote howling at the moon found in the Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

While this petroglyph wasn’t as clear as many we found at Three Rivers, I am including it because the coyote is howling at the moon. Every gift shop in the South West will sell at least one item with a coyote howling at the moon.

The Spanish introduced the modern horse into North America six centuries ago, an act which had a major impact on the culture of Native Americans. I've been waiting for six months to reintroduce this Scotland pony into my blog.

The Spanish introduced the modern horse into North America six centuries ago, an act which had a major impact on the culture of Native Americans. I’ve been waiting for six months to reintroduce this Scotland pony into my blog. I snapped its picture two years ago when it ran up to greet me in the Scottish lowlands.

Horse petroglyph from Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

We found three horse petroglyphs that seemed to have a blanket with geometric designs draped over their bodies.

Rabbit petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico

I’ll conclude with what I felt was a good representation of a jack rabbit… until I noticed the possible tail arching over its back. (grin)

The next blog is for the birds.

A small, nondescript bird pecks away on a rock.

A small, nondescript bird roosts on a rock at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

Strange Gods… The Rock Art of Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

Petroglyph in Three Rivers Petroglyph site of southern New Mexico.

This is one of my favorite glyphs from the Three Rivers Petroglyph site in Southern New Mexico– but what does it mean? I’ll go out on the proverbial limb. My guess is it represents a drug induced shamanistic vision. There is some thought that the circle with dots represents Datura, a powerful hallucinogen (and also a favorite flower subject of Georgia O’Keeffe).

A lot of guessing takes place in determining the meaning of rock art. Present day Native American myths and rituals provide some clues. Others can be deduced from the petroglyph itself. An antelope filled full of arrows relates to hunting, but is it a record of an actual event or a hopeful prediction of the future?

Today I am featuring petroglyphs from the Three Rivers site that represent humans and gods. Some can seem quite strange while the one below seems… quite human.

A realistic portrayal of a human found at the Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

This is the most realistic portrayal of a human we found among the Three River Petroglyphs. Note the ear rings.

Petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

I also found this triangular face fascinating. Many of the petroglyphs at Three Rivers take advantage of the rocks natural features. This one uses the ridge to set off the nose and eyes, and cracks to outline the chin.

Petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in Southern New Mexico.

According to Alex Patterson in his book, Rock Art Symbols, this is either the Mother of Animals or a woman waiting for her honey. It could be she is having a baby. Check out her expression. Two different versions are below.

Petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

Another possible version of Mother of Animals at Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

Petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

And a third.

Three Rivers Petroglyph.

I introduced a close up of this character in my last blog. Here he is located in his rock setting. I am thinking “boo!”

Petroglyph from Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

Talk about scary, this guy qualifies. Big eyes and big, sharp teeth

Three Rivers petroglyph.

Petroglyphs can be quite graphic in their portrayals…

Petroglyph from Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

…And abstract. Geometric patterns are often included.

You can tell your god or someone's status in society by the headdress he or she wears. The plant on the left may be corn.

You can tell your god by the headdress he or she wears. The plant may be corn.

Petroglyph from Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

I’ll conclude this blog with this spiky haired character who appears to be waving bye-bye.

NEXT BLOG: We will enter into the petroglyph animal kingdom of Three Rivers.

Mountain lion petroglyph at Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

I check out a mountain lion petroglyph.